Fulford to play ball at the next level
Before Hayes Fulford signed her name in ink Friday afternoon, softball mentor Shelli Shoup stood in front of Fulford’s family and friends at Columbia High School.
She read off a list of comments from Fulford’s family, friends and teammates alike, sayings and stories that moved many in the room to tears as one chapter nears a close while another is only a few months from beginning.
A few minutes later Fulford, overcome with emotion, signed a scholarship to play softball at Eastern Florida State College in Brevard County next fall.
It was a dream come true for Fulford, who has been playing softball since she was five years old.
“It’s kind of unreal,” Fulford said. “It’s like dang, it’s already here. It went by so fast but I’m really excited.”
Fulford first came across EFSC while playing on her travel ball team, North Florida Pride. EFSC was on her team’s schedule, and after playing them, the school’s coaching staff showed an interest in Fulford’s talents.
From there, they wanted to take her on a tour of the school and that’s when the gears started turning toward a scholarship offer.
“She is committed and works extremely hard,” Columbia head coach Trudy Andrews said. “She’s up here hitting in the cages on her own time with her daddy and fielding on her own time.”
In fact, Fulford won’t even leave the practice field if she’s not pleased with the last ball she hits or fields.
“I don’t like to mess up so if I do mess up, I like to get more reps to get better and I want to end on a good one,” Fulford said. “I don’t like to end on a bad field or a bad hit ball. I’m gonna do what I need to get better.”
Fulford’s dedication to the game is evident by her ability to be a Swiss army knife for Columbia, able to play multiple positions. She had seven RBI and a home run as a junior for the Tigers and posted a .943 fielding percentage as a utility player, mostly at second base, shortstop and center field.
EFSC hasn’t told her what position she’ll be playing when she takes the field for the Titans in 2017. Until then, she’ll play wherever called upon for the Tigers, a team with big expectations in 2016.
“I’m hoping when can go to state. I think we can do it,” Fulford said. “We have a lot of talent so hopefully we can work hard and stay together as a team and make it to state.”