05/16/11 — Kayla Kennedy signs with Salem College

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Kayla Kennedy signs with Salem College

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 16, 2011 1:47 PM

Even with two state championship rings as reminders of a stellar career at Wayne Christian, senior Kayla Kennedy nearly lost her passion for softball.

Lack of enough players due to varying reasons forced Eagles head coach Roger Longwell to not field a varsity team this spring. Kennedy also stopped playing travel ball and her interest dwindled daily.

A teammate helped change her mind.

Regan Hinton signed with Division III Salem College nearly two months ago. She relayed her experience of visiting the campus, meeting with the coaches and players.

Kennedy perked up.

"I had thought about playing in college in years past, but not recently until she mentioned it," said a smiling Kennedy. "She was a very big influence. She's the one who talked me into emailing Coach (Scott) Long and applying (to the school). She got me excited about it."

Kennedy's first season with the Spirits will be historical. Salem played club softball this past fall and a limited schedule this spring. The Spirits will play their first-ever full season of competition in the Great South Atlantic Conference in 2012.

Long has recruited several players throughout the state to join Kennedy, who hopes to spend time in the outfield, but can also play the middle infield as well. She played shortstop for Longwell, who preferred to have a strong infield which made it difficult for opponents to put pressure on the Eagles' defense.

Kennedy helped lead the Eagles to back-to-back N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state championships in 2007 and 2008. Wayne Christian won nearly 70 games with Kennedy in the lineup and reached the postseason five consecutive years.

The soft-spoken, 18-year-old fashioned a .362 career batting average. She cranked out 80 hits, scored 85 runs and drew 133 walks against opposing pitchers.

"I think I'm stronger defensively than I am offensively," said Kennedy. "I've been an outfielder my whole softball career, so I think I'm pretty decent in that area. Hitting is a little bit harder for me because I get intimidated very easily ... their speed and stuff.

"It helps me when I see other people hit and lets me know that I can hit ... a confidence thing. I've got to practice on my own and not being able to practice with a team is a lot different. I guess that's kind of a disadvantage in a way."

Kennedy plans to major in exercise science and become a physical therapist.