Times Sports Editor
The sport of softball has been a large part of Northview senior Taylor Carter's life since she was young and as she sat in the high school library on Wednesday afternoon, it became official that the sport will pay for her college education.
Carter will join a program that has had some struggles in recent years, posting an 11-38 overall mark last season, but the senior admitted she was drawn to the program, campus and coaching staff.
"It's absolutely beautiful. They haven't really had great seasons in the past, but they have a new coach and he wants to rebuild the program," Carter said. "He's confident that he can get the players and has been recruiting really well. I just really want to be a part of the new program."
At Northview, Carter stepped into a key role from her first game as a freshman with the Knights when she batted .410 over 25 games and was 6-5 as a pitcher with a 2.55 ERA and earned All-Conference status.
Two years later and Carter has compiled a career .481 batting average over 274 at-bats with 104 RBI, 36 doubles and 12 home runs. She has scored 65 runs in three years and has struck out just 10 times.
Northview coach Bethany Jones was impressed immediately with Carter as a freshman.
"As a freshman she was able to come in and pitch for us her first year. She's been a great leader as far as her work ethic," Jones said. "She's just tremendous as far as wanting to work and get better and the other girls see that and want to do that as well."
While success came quickly for Carter at the high school level, Jones noted that she didn't stop working to improve.
"She's got a great arm. As far as pitching goes, she's developed more pitches and has got more movement on the ball since her freshman year," Jones said. "She moves well, her agility has really improved and obviously she can hit the ball. Everything about her all around game has improved over the last three years."
There have been few athletes at Northview High School that have earned all-conference honors three times, but Carter could reach rarified air this spring as a potential four-time All-WIC athlete.
"It's very special, she should look at that and know that it means something. She's very respectful and she should get that fourth one," Jones said of Carter being a potential four-time All-WIC athlete. "There hasn't been many of them at Northview and to prove that you can do that is tremendous."
Irwin is also looking for big things when Carter joins the Bucs.
"We are extremely excited to sign Taylor. She is an outstanding hitter. Offensively, she has a chance to come in and be one of the best hitters in the history of the program. She will set hitting records here," Irwin said. "We look for Taylor to play first base. She is a very good defensive player as well. She will provide an immediate impact to our program. We are trying to build a successful program in a tough conference and Taylor will play a major role in that."
While Carter is expected to fit right in to the East Tennessee State softball team on the diamond, her academics are also on par with the rest of the Bucs' team.
In the 2010-11 season, the Bucs boasted a 3.495 grade-point-average, which ranked ninth among NCAA Division I leaders. Eight Buccaneer players received National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-American Scholar Athlete honors by posting a GPA higher than a 3.50. Carter had a 3.27 GPA her junior year and was ranked 50th out of 251 students.
"I'm not planning on playing softball my whole life so education was a big key in making my decision because that will be my future," Carter said. "I'm looking forward to the competition and actually college itself. I'm really excited about meeting new people and the academics."
Irwin is also excited for when Carter can bring her abilities to Tennessee to join the Bucs' program.
"Taylor has been a standout player for her high school and comes from a very strong travel team in the Indiana Magic," Irwin said. "Most importantly, Taylor is a tremendous young lady and comes from a great family. We can hardly wait to get her here and welcome her into our ETSU Softball Family."