In his first high school signing as the coach of the Kentucky Christian University softball team, current Ashland coach Dave Miller stayed close to home.
Kittens infielder McKenzie Vanover is the first to join the Kentucky Christian program, signing at Paul Blazer High School on Friday afternoon.
After receiving interest from Rio Grande and Shawnee State, Vanover said she jumped at the chance to join KCU and her coach since 2010.
“I’m not tired of him yet,” Vanover laughed. “I didn’t really feel at home at Shawnee, and I kind of liked Rio. But when I found out Dave was going to be the coach at KCU, I thought hey I would love to play for Dave for four more years.”
For Miller, who also owns Championship Fastpitch in Ashland, it wasn’t the first time Vanover was part of a new career path for the coach.
When Miller introduced Vanover on Friday, he reminded the Ashland senior she was one of the first customers at Championship Fastpitch.
She also started her high school career at Rose Hill, but Miller said he was happy to see her come over to Ashland a year later.
“She played at Rose Hill her seventh-grade year, but she trained with us,” Miller said. “Since she arrived here she was a starter immediately. We don’t start many eighth-graders. That’s a testament to what her talent level was at that point, and from there she just climbed.”
Since starting at Ashland in 2010, Vanover has been a key power bat in the Kittens’ lineup.
With the Kittens, Vanover has a career batting average of .402 along with 29 home runs and 171 runs batted in. She’s also been a part of four region championship teams.
“I think we got the best hitter in the state, if not further,” Miller said. “Great kid, great work ethic and she hits the ball extremely well and extremely long. I think she’s going to hit the ball very well for us on the next level.”
Vanover’s junior season was the most impressive yet, slamming 15 home runs and 56 RBIs.
She hit a home run in four straight games, and hit two over the fence in the 16th Region championship game while sharing tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
And while the hitting is what sets her apart, she’s also played both corner infield spots, alternating between first base and third base each year.
“Her talent is just unbelievable,” Miller said. “She can do whatever we ask her to do, and do it well. Having some versatility in the field is a huge thing.”
Along with Vanover, KCU will have former Kitten standouts Katelyn Miller and Kelsee Hammond on the inaugural team.
With the other two already in college, Vanover was the first true signee for KCU — and she can’t wait to start building the program.
“Starting a program is one of the best things you can do,” Vanover said “Once you start a program, it just keeps building and building. Once I graduate and look back to where it started, I can say ‘I started this, I was a part of that.’”
But before Vanover and Miller take the next step, they both have one more season at Ashland — the five-time defending region champions.
And along with getting region title No. 6 for the Kittens, Vanover has even loftier goals for her senior season.
“I want to actually end up with a state title,” Vanover said with a smirk.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.