BELDING - Playing college softball has been a dream for Belding pitcher Kyleigh Linebaugh. That dream became a reality Wednesday when Linebaugh signed a letter of intent to play for the Davenport University Panthers beginning in 2012.
Last year as a junior, Linebaugh was named Division 2 all-state by the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association for a second consecutive year. She helped lead her team to a 26-6 overall record and to the state quarterfinals, a year after reaching the state semifinals.
Davenport plays in the Wolverine Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) and went 38-18 last year. The program - in just its fourth year – made it to the NAIA national tournament and was first in the WHAC.
“I always wanted to make my decision early. Davenport really welcomed me with open arms and I felt like it was home,” Kyleigh Linebaugh said. “I liked the campus. It was nice and small and I felt like everybody gets along like family. I feel like I’m going to have a lot of fun there the next four years.”
Linebaugh went 21-5 last year with 187 strikeouts in 125 innings. In 2010, Linebaugh went 35-1 with 260 strikeouts in 195 innings. Her ERA the past two years was 0.72 and 0.57.
Belding coach and mom Mikayla Linebaugh credits Kyleigh’s dedication and pitching coach Steve Howard with her success.
“She was 10 when we found Steve (Howard). It was a blessing to us,” Mikayla Linebaugh said. “He’s really pushed her in the right direction. Kyleigh works hard, she loves pitching and you have to have the love for the game to do what needs to be done year round.
“I’m just proud as a mom first and as a coach too. It’s a big day for her and it was a hard decision,” she added.
The decision came down to Davenport and Aquinas College. Davenport won over because of Linebaugh’s plan to focus on a degree in business.
“It really did come down to schooling,” Kyleigh Linebaugh said. “I felt like Aquinas had a little better job placement, but Davenport was geared toward business more and that’s what I wanted to go for.”
It was Linebaugh’s versatility that helped attract Davenport coach Ronda Varnesdeel.
“Not only is she a pitcher, but she is athletic and can play defense. She is consistent on the offensive end,” she said. “She comes from a well experienced softball team and will definitely add softball knowledge to our program.”
At the plate, Linebaugh batted .440 with 34 RBIs in 2011. In 2011, she hit .530 with 60 RBIs and 56 runs scored.
Varnsdeel said it is too early to know Linebaugh’s role at Davenport next year.
“We do lose a senior pitcher, so we will have a spot open on our pitching staff,” she said. “I think she is definitely a hard worker and with her work ethic anything is possible.”
For now, Linebaugh will be enjoying her senior year and looking forward to her next challenge next year.
“Now I’ll have more fun knowing my college decision is already made,” Kyleigh Linebaugh said. “I can really look forward to having fun this year and college. It’s nice to see you can get rewarded if you work hard.”