PETTICOAT JUNCTION — There was a large turnout at the Silver Bluff High School library Monday, as family and friends packed in to celebrate Haley Key. The senior softball player signed a letter of intent to continue playing in college at USC Salkehatchie.
That tight-knit family structure is something that drew Key to USC Salkehatchie. The Bulldogs’ catcher said she chose to play for the Indians because of the welcoming feeling she got from the players and coaching staff. She picked the two-year program over four-year schools such as GRU Augusta and USC Beaufort.
“The softball team is like a family; there’s a family environment,” said Key, adding she was a fan of the coaching staff and the opportunity it’s providing her. “I knew I wanted to go to a school after high school where I could play softball. ‘Salk’ is offering me that chance and I’m really blessed.”
Key has played on Silver Bluff’s varsity team since she was a seventh grader and has been a regular since her eighth-grade year. Although she’s primarily played catcher for the Bulldogs, Key prefers to, and expects to play third base for the Indians. That’s the position she mans for her travel ball teams.
Key has improved her defense every year at Silver Bluff, dramatically reducing the number of errors from 17 as an eighth grader to just three last season.
USC Salkehatchie head coach Kenneth Bellamy lauded Key’s versatility, claiming she can play on both corners of the infield in addition to serving as a backstop. While that will be a tremendous asset for Bellamy, who will have to replace several contributors on his program, the thing he likes best about Key is what she can do at the plate rather than behind it.
“She can help in the infield, and she’ll provide competition for those positions. We’ll see where she fits best and can help the team the most. But she has natural, raw power,” Bellamy said of Key, who has 49 extra-base hits – including 15 home runs – and has driven in 90 runs the past four seasons. “She needs consistency at the plate and the pitchers she faces are going to be better, but she’ll get a lot of at-bats. She has potential.”
The self-proclaimed power hitter has gotten off to a slow start this season for the Bulldogs. She only has two hits to date on the young season, but can contribute in other ways to keep the team headed in a positive direction. Key described herself as a leader, somebody who tries to motivate her teammates and keep them up beat, especially in tough situations.
“It’s my job to keep the girls up,” Key said. “You’re not going to get anywhere when you’re down.”
Key’s heading to the campus in Allendale, where she plans to pursue a degree in Nursing. The member of Silver Bluff’s A/B Honor Roll is looking to become a nurse anesthetist when she graduates, and said she’s looking forward to getting extra attention.
“It’s really small; the class size is small so I’ll get more time with the teachers,” Key said. “I strive to be as good in the books as a softball player. School comes first.”