For Kentucky Christian University, it’s an inception.
The school announced on Tuesday that a fastpitch softball program will be launched in the fall of 2014. It’s the first sport added to KCU’s repertoire since football in 2008.
For Ashland Blazer High School, it’s a reunion.
Current Ashland coach Dave Miller will take the reins of the Knights, and he’s bringing with him a star-studded cast of Kittens.
Katelyn Miller, Kelsee Hammonds and McKenzie Vanover all signed letters of intent on campus on Tuesday afternoon to be part of Miller’s grand-opening team, which will take the field in the spring of 2015.
Miller will wrap up his final season with the Kittens this coming spring.
Bruce Dixon, KCU’s director of athletics, and Miller have engaged in many a conversation about this moment for the past few years.
“The timing was never quite right until now,” said Dixon inside KCU’s Nash Chapel. “We as a university have been looking at, where are places you want to try and grow? We didn’t have spring athletic programs and we also wanted to appeal to the female demographic. Softball presents a great opportunity.”
KCU will compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association. While there are certain stipulations on athletic scholarships, they will be awarded.
The Knights will play their home games at Championship Fastpitch Sports Complex, a five-field facility owned by Miller. The complex is located just behind the Boyd County Fairgrounds.
“What an awesome perk,” Dixon said of the facility. “The man (Miller) fit regardless of what he had with him, though. When we look for coaches, we’re looking for more than just a coach. Dave is a Christian, an elder in his church, and it’s obvious he has coaching expertise.”
Miller has guided Ashland to five consecutive 16th Region championships. He has been named All Area Coach of the Year twice and has compiled a 203-76 record since 2006.
While Miller is eager to take on this “huge challenge,” he said leaving Ashland is tough.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the administration all the way down to the kids. It was a tearful day when I made the announcement to them. It was my baby, I raised it and built it. It’s hard to let it go ...
“... But I’m taking a few (Kittens) with me,” he added with a smile.
Katelyn Miller, Dave’s daughter, is a 21-year-old marketing student at Morehead State University. Hammonds is also at MSU, studying elementary education. Both will enroll at KCU before the spring semester.
Katelyn was chosen the All-Area Pitcher of the Year three times. She was a first team All-State selection as a senior in 2011. Upon transferring, Miller expects to still have at least two years of eligibility.
Hammonds was Co-Player of the Year twice and first team All-State in 2012.
Vanover is currently an Ashland senior. The power-hitting right-hander was named Co-Player of the Year this past spring. Her official signing ceremony will take place on Friday at 2 p.m. at Blazer’s high school cafeteria.
Both Miller and Hammonds admitted they’re a bit rusty.
“I was hitting off the tee the other day and (Coach Miller) said, ‘You look awkward,’” Hammonds said with a laugh.
Hammonds said she thought she was burnt-out on softball after graduating, but quickly learned otherwise.
It was pretty much a no-brainer to rejoin the Millers on the softball diamond, she said.
Said Katelyn: “It’s going to take lots of work to get back (to top form). But it’s nice to get a second shot.”
Dave Miller struggled to put into words what it means to coach his daughter again, but he said the fact that she and many other talented players in this area weren’t sought after by colleges was a major factor in his decision to be KCU’s first coach.
“Eastern Kentucky kids that often get overlooked won’t be overlooked anymore,” Miller said.
Miller said it’s “humbling” to be a centerpiece of KCU’s athletic program.
“Between the facilities we have coupled with the quality education they’ll receive, we can grow this program to be great,” he said.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com. or (606) 326-2664.
Ashland's Miller will coach
For Kentucky Christian University, it’s an inception.
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VIDEO: 16th Region semifinals highlights
Fleming County defeated Lewis County, 66-58, and Ashland beat Greenup County, 81-61, on Monday night at Morehead State University to set up tonight's championship matchup. Tipoff is set for 7.
Ashland cruises past Greenup to 16th Region championship game
Tyler Stewart is known for his unrelenting hustle as one of Ashland’s glue guys.
When the senior guard can pitch in some offense too, as he did Monday in the 16th Region Tournament semifinals, that’s just one more problem for Tomcats opponents.
Stewart scored 20 points, senior Steven Friley posted a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Ashland outscored Greenup County 21-9 in the third quarter to break open what was a seven-point game at halftime and cruise past the Musketeers, 81-61.
Fleming battles back to 16th Region final
A healthy Wilder Williams this season has given Fleming County a whole new dimension.
Prior to his sophomore year, Williams sustained a football injury that resulted in three ankle surgeries and limited him to bench duty last season while the Panthers made their run to the 16th Region championship.
A physical 6-foot-3 player, Williams is making his presence felt around the basket as Fleming County looks to return to the Sweet Sixteen.
AARON SNYDER: Will the next hero be unmasked?
Who will the bat signal shine for tonight?
Or, should I say, the Cat signal?
In the third installment of a trilogy that might rival the Batman three-pack of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fleming County and Ashland will battle in a matchup that has produced a classic clash in each of the last two 16th Region Tournaments.
If the first two collectively served as a gradual progressions to tonight’s scene, the climax could be off the charts.
Corey Gregg was Ashland’s superhero in 2012, when the senior confidently fired a perfect 3-point shot from the right corner. The triple thrust the Tomcats and Panthers into overtime, from which Ashland emerged 79-73 in a first-round game.
Central wins, Lawrence falls in 15th
The biggest concern for Lawrence County coach Josh Cook was staying out of foul trouble.
His team stayed in it all night, and it cost them a spot in the 15th Region title game.
Shelby Valley senior Tyler Carr led four players in double figures with 19 points as the Wildcats knocked off Lawrence County, 72-60, in the semifinals of the 15th Region Tournament at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
“This one hurts,” said Cook. “We’ll learn from this, and I have no doubt that our kids will get back here and finish the job.”
- Fleming hangs tough to beat Lewis Fleming County locked into another fight against Lewis County, which beat the Panthers earlier this season, before winning 66-58 on Monday in Morehead. Wilder Williams posted a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers, who face Ashland on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
- GALLERY: Ashland gets by Greenup County, will meet Fleming in region final Ashland's Steven Friley scored 21 points Monday to lead the Tomcats to an 81-61 win over Greenup County in the 16th Region semifinal in Morehead.
Kittens clamoring for more at state
Ashland girls basketball coaches went the extra mile, and a whole bunch more, to get a first-hand scouting report on the Kittens’ opponent for the State Tournament.
Head coach Bill Bradley and assistant Phil Wittich drove all the way to Henderson — 5 hours, 20 minutes one way Bradley said on the way home — to take in Sunday’s Second Region championship game.
Henderson County, playing on its home floor, defeated University Heights 67-54. The Lady Colonels went unbeaten in their region this season and are 24-5 overall.
EKC hands out hardware
The Eastern Kentucky Conference handed out its 2014 awards on Monday afternoon at a luncheon at Carter Caves.
Barracudas earn kudos from coach
Ashland Area YMCA swimmers impressed coach Ryan Ferguson from start to finish in the three-day Kentucky Y Competitive Swim League State Meet.
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