LAURINBURG — A pair of Scotland softball stars will take the diamond in 2017 sporting new uniforms.
Seniors Kenleigh Callahan and Kelsey Smith put pen to paper Monday morning at Scotland High’s media center, inking commitments to Presbyterian College and Methodist University respectively.
Callahan, an all-Southeastern Conference performer on the mound last season, signed with a Blue Hose program coached by Britne Stubbs. An NCAA Division I school in the Big South Conference, Presyterian finished 25-25 overall last season and 10-12 against conference foes.
“They had interest, so I figured I’d use all of my options and decided to go visit,” Callahan said. “The coach is from Bennettsville and they were really nice. That’s why I chose to go there, because I felt like I was in really good hands.”
The senior star said the potential of earning early playing time was also a factor in her decision.
“She said I would get time to play — normally if you came in as a freshman you really wouldn’t,” Callahan said.
Callahan was recruited by the Blue Hose to be a pitcher, and while she expects to be Scotland’s ace this year, the senior said she is also working on her hitting in preparation for a tough conference season.
Smith, a versatile outfielder that thrives at any spot in the lineup, is set to join the Monarchs and coach Ron Simpson. Methodist, a NCAA Division III program in the USA South Conference, was 19-19 a year ago and 13-11 in conference play.
“I would have picked Methodist even if it wasn’t for softball, so it kind of just fell into my hands where I could play softball and do what I want to do,” Smith said.
Smith said she enjoyed touring Methodist’s facilities and expects to play first base for the Monarchs. She said she wants to work on her strength during her final year in preparation for college.
“I’m not a power hitter, I just hit to get on base and just go,” she said. “Strength will make that a little bit better.”
Led by head coach Patrick Williams, Scotland finished 13-5 last year and 7-3 in the Southeastern Conference, which placed it second in the regular season standings behind Richmond Senior. The Scots knocked off the Raiders in the SEC tournament title game, but Richmond avenged that loss when it defeated Scotland in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
Williams said key returners like Callahan and Smith are intricate cogs in Scotland’s plans to contend for another conference crown.
“(Callahan’s) a competitor for every letter of the word on the mound as well as at the plate,” he said. “She says ‘Coach, whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it.’ Smith is one of those one-through-nine hitters, she can do it. She has some primary positions, but whatever you need done, she’s the one that can do it.”
Both Callahan and Smith mentioned they will miss the camaraderie all of the girls share on the squad, but that they are excited for the challenges that await them at the next level.
“We’ve all been playing together since we were really small, and then you go play for a whole new team,” Callahan. “I think it will be fun to be able to meet new people and play with other people.”
Williams said he expects both girls to have success on the college diamond because of the positive traits they’ve displayed during their Scotland careers.
“Team kids and team people — you can’t beat that,” Williams said.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.