“I’ve been playing sports since I was 5. I wasn’t sure I was going to get the chance to keep playing. I’m excited that I’m getting this opportunity,” the recent Bradley Central two-sport athlete expressed Wednesday afternoon at the BCHS library, just before signing scholarship papers to play fast-pitch softball for Cleveland State.
Although Carroll missed the second half of the spring softball season with a fractured ankle, Cleveland State coach Katie Willingham has had her eye on the Bearette third baseman for a long time.
“Baylee’s an athlete. A pure talent with natural ability, plus she’s able to be taught and apply it to her game,” the Lady Cougar mentor remarked. “I’ve known her since she was a young child and watched her grow up. She has the ability to play both sports on the college level but it will help her to concentrate on just one.”
Carroll not only was a three-year starter for the Bradley softball squad, but also a key member of the three-peat region champion Bearette basketball program, which advanced to the TSSAA State Championship Tournament last March.
Becoming the fourth member of the Bradley softball team to sign with Cleveland State for the coming season, Carroll joins teammate Tori Roberts, Allison Conley and Meghan Ward on the Lady Cougar roster.
“Having four (high school) teammates on the team will help with the process of adjustment to the college level,” coach Willingham assessed. “They are already comfortable with each other and hopefully that will also help the other players to bond together.”
“I like the fact that it’s close to home and I have (Bearette) teammates there,” Carroll related. “Tori (Roberts) and I have been on the same team every year since we started playing ball.”
As is the nature of the two-year community college format, the team roster has a big turnover every year. Carroll makes the 11th player Willingham has signed for the coming season.
“It’s important to get players who can step right in and play,” she stated. “I feel like Baylee will be able to do that. She will have plenty of time this summer and fall to get ready for the spring season. We won’t rush her (due to the recovery from the ankle injury), but I know she’s a hard worker and will be ready.”
“I was in a cast and on crutches for a couple of months, then they put me in a (walking) boot, but the doctor released me this week and I can start working out and getting ready,” Carroll explained.
Although Carroll has been a fixture in the hot corner for the Bearettes for the past three seasons, plus part of her freshman year, she is able to play other positions as well.
“She’s a very versatile player,” expressed Bradley head coach Christie McElhaney. “She played mainly third (base) for us, because that’s where we needed her the most, but she is capable of playing elsewhere as needed. She’s also a tremendous hitter and has batted in one of our power slots the whole time.”
Carroll was hitting .310 when she got injured this season, plus has belted five home runs in the past season and a half.
“She’s been a great leader for our team and has been able to motivate the other players to play hard,” coach McElhaney related. “She’s a very determined, hard worker and will do well on the college level.”
“Baylee’s ability to play more than one position will really help us with the way our conference setup is, where we play doubleheaders on back-to-back days against conference opponents,” coach Willingham remarked. “Depth on the infield is vital in these four-game series, and she will provide that for us.”
Carroll plans to major in eduction and marketing at Cleveland State in hopes of someday teaching and coaching.
“This (going to CSCC) gives me the chance to continue to work on my game for two years and hopefully get an opportunity to play at a four-year school,” Carroll stated. “This is a great opportunity to help me reach my goal of teaching and coaching one day.”