LAUREL HILL — When first meeting Nichole Bailey, you’ll notice that the Laurel Hill senior softball player is polite but soft-spoken.
On the softball diamond, the Hobo left fielder lets her bat do the talking.
Bailey led Laurel Hill in hitting last season, posting a .444 average.
Tuesday, she signed scholarship papers to play softball for Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia, Ala., where she will reunite with former Laurel Hill pitcher Kasey Harrison, a Saints infielder.
The big selling point for Wallace is its proximity to Laurel Hill, Bailey said.
“It’s close to home and it’s where I felt comfortable going,” she said.
Bailey has dreamed of playing college softball since she was in the sixth grade.
And just what attracted her to the game?
“The teamwork and the teammates,” she said, “and the connections you get with other people.”
She said the Saint coaches haven’t decided where she will play, and won’t do so until she joins the team in the fall.
It didn’t take Bailey long to impress the Wallace coaching staff during a recent tryout, Hobo softball coach Scott Varnum said.
“She had a good showing when she went up there,” he said. “She hit the ball really well and had a good hitting performance for her tryout.”
That Bailey put the bat on ball didn’t surprise Varnum.
“She led us last year with a .444 batting average,” he said. “She has meant a lot to us with her bat.
“Hitting is definitely her strength. She hits the ball really hard, really well, up the middle. We got her hitting the ball more up the middle last year and hitting more line drives instead of trying to take it out (of the park).”
That doesn’t mean Bailey lacks other skills that can help Wallace.
Varnum said that last season she started a double play from left field that was one of the best defensive plays he has seen in almost a decade.
And while Bailey has shown flashes of brilliance on defense, her ability to swing the bat helped her earn the scholarship.
“Just from what I’ve seen, I expect her in some form to be hitting either as the DP (designated player) or as an outfielder,” he said. “She may not be in the field to start with, but she will definitely be hitting for them.”
Bailey has the intangibles that will help at the college level, Varnum said.
“She’s a good team player,” he said. “She’s been a part of a couple of district championships and I’m really depending on her to hit the ball for us this year.”
Bailey will need to work on her fielding and throwing to become a complete player; she also must keep swinging the bat as often as possible, Varnum said.
Bailey understands the challenge of getting better.
“The work will never stop,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement. Always.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524