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Published 10:18am Thursday, May 23, 2013

ASKEWVILLE – Flying higher than an Eagle.

On May 9th at the Bethel Assembly Christian Academy athletic awards banquet senior Kelsie Conner signed to attend Barton College in Wilson beginning in the fall of 2013 on an athletic scholarship to play softball.

Based on the results of her prep sports career she had quite a choice.

Conner finished her career as a three-sport star with the Lady Eagles, earning volleyball Most-Valuable-Player, girls basketball MVP, and softball MVP.

In basketball, she has had her number-3 high school jersey retired during her junior year after scoring over 1000 points for the Lady Eagles. One of the highlights of her senior year was a 30-point effort in an overtime Bethel win. She eventually finished her final basketball season having scored over 1400 points which broke the Bethel school scoring record, girls or boys.

“I feel good about closing out my high school career,” she said in a phone interview earlier this week. “I really did well with my studies and I’m really excited about my future.”

In addition to collecting all that hardware Kelsie was also named recipient of the 2013 Eric Baggett Memorial Scholarship. This is awarded annually to one male and one female student at BACA to aid in pursuit of their higher education. It is given by Mark & Debra Baggett in honor of their son, Eric, a former BACA student who died in a tragic accident while a student-athlete at Bethel.

“I’ve wanted to play softball since I could pick up a bat,” she said with a smile.

Conner made her official visit to Barton earlier in the college softball season and was immediately impressed with the Bulldog program.

“I liked how she (Barton softball coach Sheryl Neff) coached; the way she talked to her players without yelling and giving them pointers to really help them improve,” Kelsie added. “I also liked the way she coached in the field and how she portrays herself as a Christian, really involved with God.”

Also remarkable is that after suffering a shoulder injury late in the basketball season against Pungo Christian Academy, Conner was able to play thru the pain for most of the Bethel softball season, but ended up missing over half the season.

“I had pain when throwing,” she says now. “I was taken out (of the line-up) in the third week of April and missed the last four or five games of the season.”

Conner’s softball pedigree runs in her family, where her mother, Lynn, has been her coach, along with Ann Farmer and Jennifer Askew, for most of her prep career.

“I enjoyed basketball,” Conner says reflectively. “But my heart is with softball, and it’s always been softball.”

“Seeing her love of the game made all the years of traveling and expense worth it,” says Lynn.  “I have always admired her for being so humble and not getting big headed with all her recognition.”  “We have been blessed with others donating their time and money into Kelsie that enabled her with her hard work to get to this point,” she added.

Conner played for the amateur youth Cashie All-Stars, based out of Windsor, from 2009-to-2012, where she finished as home run champion with over 40 for her four-year career. She was also the home run champ and MVP for her Bethel team during that same time span during which time she played shortstop for the Eagles.

Kelsie has since gone on to play infield and outfield for one of the state’s top amateur travel teams in the Carolina Stingerz Lady Stingerz Elite Showcase team, featuring some of the top softball talent from the eastern part of the state.

Her Stingerz coach, Kim Knox has coached Conner since she was 11 years old and says her homerun hitting is what helped make a name for her. She also helped the Stingerz earn a World Series Title and she also maintains the title for youngest to ever win the NC-US Fastpitch Association Homerun Champion Trophy Winner which happened when Kelsie was only 12 years old.  “This title is what promoted her name in softball,” says Knox. “To be 12 and out-hit high school aged players had coaches and umpires mentioning her name across the state.”

Conner plans to major in athletic training, which is one of the reasons she chose Barton over Anderson (SC), Liberty (VA), Lenoir-Rhyne, and Chowan.

“It’s been one of my interests since the earliest,” she says. “I want to help people, to help prevent injuries; hopefully coach a little bit, and be able to enjoy doing what I do.”

Kelsie will have another BertieCounty product with her to aid in the transition into college ball when she takes to the diamond in Wilson: former Bertie High pitcher Caroline White. “I knew she was there,” Kelsie says. “Maybe I can adjust a little more easily.

Like Caroline, who now goes by Liz, and who logged more innings than any other Barton pitcher as the ace of the staff, plus started 14 games this season, Conner also hopes to play as a freshman. “It depends on how hard you practice,” says Kelsie. “And I have to keep my grades up.”

Conner will finish out her Stingerz Elite season this summer with most of her games played in South Carolina, including this weekend, and in Virginia.

“I hope I can be a coach one day,” she says. And that I can also be a mentor. Someone the players can admire, just like the coaches I had.”

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