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NC's Humphries to play softball at USC-Salkehatchie
NC SENIOR ERIN HUMPRHIES is joined by her parents, Larry and Rita Humphries, and her brother Patrick as she signed her National Letter of Intent with USC-Salkehatchie. Looking on from behind are North Central athletic director Louis Clyburn, NC head softball coach Mike Grigsby, USC-Salkehatchie softball coach Ken Bellamy and NC assistant softball coach Emily Fenton.

An athlete is an athlete is an athlete.

Broken down in simpler terms, Erin Humphries has racked up more than her share of honors on the volleyball court. But when it came time to decide on what sport to play in college, the choice was simple. The North Central senior went with her heart when the two-sport standout signed a national Letter of Intent to play softball at USC-Salkehatchie.

A two-time AA All-State volleyball player for the Lady Knights in the fall, Humphries was selected as the 2014 Region 3-AA softball player of the year last spring.

Playing on the softball diamond, though, is the sport which Humphries first started playing and grew to love. It helped make her choice of which sport to play in college an easy one.

"It was a little tough but I knew that my heart was in softball and that was what I wanted to pursue coming out of high school," said the two-sport standout. "I took the training that I learned in volleyball and applied it to softball, as well, to become even better in that sport.

"It was a hard decision, but I got through it."

Humphries piled up in-season and post-season honors for Andy Johnson’s Lady Knights in volleyball. For the past two years, she was selected to the AA All-State squad but she was a relative newcomer to the court in a sport which she first started playing while in the seventh grade. By that time, her softball career had already taken flight and, her heart.

"I first started playing softball when I was six and I fell in love with it," Humphries said. "I started pitching around the age of eight and it went on from there. Every time I had the chance to go outside, I was outside hitting, pitching or working on stuff like that. I fell in love with softball and kept getting better every day."

Reaping the rewards of Humphries’ talents has been NC head softball coach Mike Grigsby, who has utilized Humphries as his team’s ace on the mound or, at first base when not pitching. Offensively, Humphries bats in the middle of the team’s order.

But it was not Humphries’ arm, glove or bats which Grigsby wanted his standout to be recruited for by college coaches. He made that a point when talking with USC-Salkehatchie head coach, Ken Bellamy, who was on hand for the signing ceremony in Boonetown.

"One of the things I wrote in the letter I sent to (Bellamy)," Grigsby said, "was that I didn’t him to recruit Erin just as a player but I wanted him to recruit her as a person because she is one of the best people I know.

"Erin does her work, she’s conscientious, she wants to do the best job she can and she loves people. She’s not just a softball player. She is a true ace in the hole. You need her on your team because she will be a leader for you and she will do whatever you ask her to do."

An example of Humphries’ dedication to her team and her teammates, Grigsby said, was as a sophomore when Humphries missed the season due to a knee injury. While some players might have used that as a free pass to go home and sit in front of the TV after school, Humphries stayed with her regular springtime routine.

"When she was hurt," he said, "Erin was at every practice … she was at every game. (The injury) was killing her and killing me but she was there cheering the team on and doing everything she could to help us win.

"That’s what I told (Bellamy) out there today that he was going to get someone who was 100 percent all-in. She’s a person you can count on. That’s what you get with Erin."

Bellamy needed little convincing after having met Humphries, a young lady who he said will fit in well with his philosophy as head coach of the Indians.

"Erin is just a great kid on and off the field and she is a hard worker," Bellamy said. "She’s a great person. One thing I look for in girls is their attitude is off the field. That’s one thing Erin is going to bring to my team and that is a great attitude."

Once interest was shown on Bellamy’s part, the next step for Humphries was to visit the Allendale campus. When she left, her mind as to where she wanted to spend her first two years of college was all but made up.

"I love the fact that it is so small and it’s like a family there. I really like the atmosphere," she said. "Coming from a small high school, I really didn’t want to go to a big school where I would be just a number. I want to be known on a first-name basis and that’s what I loved about the school.

"And the softball team there was like one huge family."

Playing at a junior college will be beneficial to Humphries; something she and her present and future coach all agreed on.

The biggest change Humphries will experience at the next level will be the ramping up of the talent level across the board. While in high school softball, each team may have a handful of good players. There are no easy outs for a college pitcher. With the majority of his mound staff being sophomores, Bellamy said the signing of Humphries is a step in rebuilding that area of his squad and that she will be thrown into the mix in becoming a starting pitcher as a freshman.

"Everybody can hit, no matter what position they play or which team we play," Bellamy said of the adjustment which Humphries will be asked to make in college. "She has to understand that she can’t come in and strike everybody out. She has to pitch to her spots, know the hitters and learn to read a pitching chart. She’s going to have to mature as a pitcher."

Humphries said given that USC-Salkehatchie plays a schedule of some 55 games and a fall schedule, as well, more will be asked of her and the incoming freshmen.

"It’s better competition and I have to be prepared for that both mentally and physically," she said of the college game. "We play about 25 games in a season here and you will play about 55 games in college so, stamina is a big thing.

"They play a lot of games so you’re going to get reps in practice and reps in game situations. It will better prepare me for moving on to a bigger college after."

Getting looks from four-year softball programs will not be hard to come by for Humphries as Bellamy described when asked the benefits of playing junior college softball and getting playing time and putting your talents in front of coaches from larger four-year programs.

"I went to a small school and then, went to a junior college," he said. "You may get overlooked in high school but here, you are going to play four-year schools in the fall. You are going to get that extra look which you may not have gotten in your high school days. A girl like Erin is going to get that extra chance to be seen and progress to become even better on the field."

Softball, however, is just one facet of the college experience which Erin Humphries is looking forward to as she prepares for her final few weeks of high school.

"It will be exciting just working more independently and learning how to study to be the best that I can be while by myself and being in a new place," she said of the move from North Central to USC-Salkehatchie.

"I’m excited but I am a little nervous. I have been prepared by great teachers and great teachers here who have helped me take that step to the next level. It will be a big adjustment, but I think that I can do it."