Canes' Ballard signs with Shorter softball

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Colbi Ballard knows she’s going to play softball for Shorter next spring. But that’s about the extent of the Cartersville senior’s knowledge of the subject.

Because Ballard can do so many things well on the field, it’s unknown what exactly the Hawks have planned for her at the next level.

“I’m not sure what I’ll be doing,” Ballard said following her signing ceremony in late April. “Even when they’ve come out for travel ball, I’ve been at outfield, first base. They love my hitting, so it’s going to be a surprise when I come.”

Cartersville head coach Shannon Suarez isn’t sure how Shorter will use Ballard, but she does know her former player will carve out a role somewhere.

“She’s a versatile athlete,” Suarez said. “She pitched mainly for us, but she can play outfield. Her strong suit is hitting; she can hit the ball well. Depending on where their openings are and how she mixes in there, she could definitely have an impact for them early on.

“She’s a 3, 4, 5 hitter, and I think she’s very capable of hitting that pitching now. I wouldn’t be surprised if she jumped right into a starting role there.”

For as many great attributes that Ballard possesses, her hitting ability seems to be her strongest asset. As a senior, she slashed .328/.378/.428 for the Canes with six extra-base hits, nine runs scored and 22 RBIs.

“Her bat provides a lot of power, a lot of pop,” Suarez said. “But at the same time, if I ask her to put down a bunt, she’s capable of that also. She can probably hit anywhere in the lineup 2 through 9 to have an impact and help her team win.”

Ballard’s impact for Cartersville the past few years is difficult to truly quantify. Her overall impact might have been muted a bit due to Ballard needing to fill multiple roles.

During her senior season alone, Ballard went from pitching roughly every other game to not pitching much at all to pitching almost every frame down the stretch. Suarez said she appreciated Ballard’s willingness to adjust on the fly.

“They’re getting a coachable kid,” Suarez said. “That’s the type of athlete you want. Someone who doesn’t care about themselves and puts the team first, will run through a wall for you and do anything you ask. I put her in multiple positions at inopportune times, and without a word, she would just go and do it.”

That team-first mentality will certainly endear Ballard to her college coaches, as well. Considering how much Ballard liked the coaching staff and her future teammates, it appears to be a great landing spot.

“I loved the coaches; they were on the young side, so they were more relatable and super nice,” Ballard said. “As for the team, they were energetic and welcoming, and I liked that.”

Even better for Ballard is the fact that her new school will be within easy driving distance for her family to attend games.

“I wanted to go to Shorter because it’s so close to home,” she said. “… I liked how it was so close [family] could make it to my games. Also, when I stepped on campus I really liked it and felt at home.”

Suarez was happy to see Ballard join Presly Edwards, who signed to Wesleyan, as Cartersville seniors off to play college softball.

“I’m especially happy for her, because this is something she deserves and has worked hard for for many years,” Suarez said. “To see her go on and be able to play at the next level, we’re especially proud of her and happy for her.”

After thinking her time playing softball might end with the Canes, Ballard is ready to embrace the challenge of competing at the collegiate level.

“I’m excited to get to further my career,” she said. “At first I thought, [high school] could be it, but I’m getting the chance to play at that next level. I’m just ready to go further and see how much better I can get, especially with the training and their coaching.”