Prep Softball: South's Jones heads to Belmont Abbey
By Mike London
LANDIS — South Rowan senior Kaitlyn Jones stands a modest 5-foot-3, a fact of life that she hasn’t got any control over.
So as much as she enjoys playing basketball and volleyball for the Raiders as a year-round athlete, she’s known since her freshman year if she was going to play a sport at the college level it was going to be softball.
Jones realized a long-term dream when she signed on the dotted line for Belmont Abbey’s program in Belmont on Monday, along with travel-ball teammate Catelyn Presley, a pitcher from Queen’s Grant High in Charlotte.
“Belmont Abbey got two great girls, great character girls,” said Greg Spain, who has coached both with the Lady Blues Elite travel team. “I’m very happy for them. That’s two really awesome kids. They’re always going to show up for everything and they’re always going to show up early.”
South Rowan put together a follow-up party for Jones and Wingate baseball signee Matt Miller at the school on Tuesday afternoon. Jones and Miller celebrated with cake, food, teammates, classmates, family, coaches and teachers.
Jones revealed that her debut in softball was not awe-inspiring. She remembers trying out for a rec ball team in the fifth grade, and she set the sport back several years.
“I remember my dad (Mike) saying, “Uh, you know, Kaitlyn, this really isn’t looking so good,” Jones said with a laugh.
Jones was a catcher in those days, but she had to start somewhere.
She started to improve once she made her travel-ball debut with the Rowan Rage. The Rage made a third baseman out of her.
By the time Jones arrived at South, she was a good infielder and hitter. She’s best suited physically for third base, but Tiffany Poole, who was South’s coach then, was in desperate need of a shortstop.
“First year of high school and the coach says that I’m going to be the varsity shortstop,” Jones said. “That was a little bit overwhelming at first, but it turned out to be a good thing.”
She’s still out there. This spring will be her fourth as South’s shortstop.
As far as travel ball, Jones moved on to the Lady Blues, and from there up to the Lady Blues Elite, which travels a good chunk of the world in search of the best competition. At that level, playing with a lot of girls headed to Division I, Jones is a third baseman.
Spain said when the Blues traveled to a Colorado showcase over the summer there were 350 college coaches in attendance. The Blues played 46 games in one grueling seven-week stretch in June and July.
“Great exposure for the girls to the college coaches, it was a great experience for them, and it was just great competition,” Spain said.
Jones said Wingate, Francis Marion and Salem were among the schools that showed interest in her, but her big recruiting break came a lot closer to home last spring when South was playing against Cox Mill.
Belmont Abbey coaches were on hand to scout Cox Mill’s sibling battery of twins Amber and Nikki Faust, and Jones caught their eye.
“They started contacting me with e-mails, and it kind of went on from there,” Jones said.
Jones isn’t going to wow anyone with pure athletic ability. She’s not exceptionally quick or fast or powerful and her throwing arm is good, but not awesome.
“No, she’s not blessed with incredible natural talent, but I think what she is blessed with is an incredible work ethic,” Spain said. “Work ethic is her No. 1 attribute, and it’s not like everyone on every team can be a superstar. She’ll be a perfect teammate. She’s one of those girls that’s the glue of a good team, and you’ve got to have some of them if you’re going to be successful.”
Jones does all the right things in school — including chorus and honors classes. Jones’ mother, Tamara, teaches school, and Kaitlyn is likely to follow that path.
As much as she’s looking forward to college softball, the priority is still going to be her education.
“That’s one thing I really liked about Belmont Abbey,” Jones said. “I sat in on classes, and there were like 25 kids. The size is a lot like high school, and I want to learn everyone’s name.”
Spain expects her to excel in class and on the field.
“Her parents can be extremely proud,” he said. “This is a girl that just worked her tail off to make herself a college athlete.”
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