Nov. 9, 2011
By Megan Kramper
CARBONDALE, Ill. - The SIU softball team has signed four to national letters of intent for the 2013 season, head coach Kerri Blaylock announced Wednesday.
Caylee Cook (Afton, Okla.), Kelsey Gonzalez (Bolingbrook, Ill.), Taylor Harris (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Lacey Newbold (Crab Orchard, Ill.) have all signed on to play for the Salukis beginning next season.
"We feel very good about our 2013 recruiting class," Blaylock said. "We feel that we went after some tremendous hitters that could help us out immediately and who all played at the highest level in their summer competition, had great finishes in their respective national tournaments and were all highly recruited."
Caylee Cook is a three-time first team all-conference selection from Vinita High School in Afton, Okla. who will be a utility player for the Salukis. In three seasons at Vinita, she broke various school records in home runs including single game (3), single season (13), and career (29). She also helped Vinita to three district titles and led the team in batting average, home runs, slugging percentage, and RBIs. In her career, she batted in an impressive 160 RBI and held at least a .450 batting average.
"Caylee is a true utility player that can play shortstop, third base, catch or play the outfield and what we noticed immediately about her was her ability to hit the ball a long way," Blaylock said. "She has a tremendous plate presence and does a great job picking up RBIs in critical situations. Playing for a great Oklahoma Force program has also prepared her for the next level."
With the Oklahoma Force summer team, Cook helped the team to three ASA state championships (2009-11) and three top ten ASA USA finishes. She led the Force in RBIs in 2010 and in home runs in 2011.
Kelsey Gonzalez is an all-area and three-time all-conference shortstop from Naperville Central High School.
Gonzalez helped the Redhawks, to regional, sectional, and super-sectional championships in her freshman season as well as finishing fourth in the 2009 IHSA state tournament. As a junior, Gonzalez held team bests in batting average (.454) runs scored (28) RBI (25), doubles (11), triples (5), and on-base percentage (.504).
She also recorded 49 hits and two home runs. She is also is a former teammate of current Saluki Alyssa Wunderlich, who also attended Naperville Central.
Taylor Harris of East Hamilton High School in Chattanooga, Tenn. will provide the Salukis will depth in the outfield.
"We were very excited to get Taylor to join our program," Blaylock said. "She played for a Tennessee Fury program that has produced several great Division I athletes."
Harris has played for five seasons with the Tennessee Fury and earned a 2009 TSSAA State Championship at Girls Prepatory School. With the Fury, Harris held a .398 batting average with 25 RBI, six home run, 15 doubles, and three triples.
She is the vice president of her student body and ranks in the top 20% academically in her class at East Hamilton.
"She is a power hitting outfielder that can also catch and is very athletic and has great speed for a power type hitter," Blaylock said.
Lacey Newbold of nearby Crab Orchard, Ill. rounds out the recruiting class. Newbold is a three-time All-South and two-time GEC Conference MVP.
"Anytime that you have an athlete the caliber of Lacey in your area, then you need to be able to recruit that athlete to stay at home," Blaylock said. "Lacey was highly recruited and we are excited that she is coming to SIU."
In three seasons, Newbold has hit 32 home runs, held at least a .600 batting average, and drew 93 walks. She was named 1st team All-State in 2011 and an All-Conference selection in each of her three years. She has played for the Southern Force for four years, which placed 3rd in 2011 and 5th in 2010 in the ASA Nationals.
Newbold is also the first female athlete from Crab Orchard High School to receive a Division I scholarship.
"She has a great swing and can hit for average and for power. She has played at such a high level in the summer that her transition to Division I should be smooth. We will play Lacey in both the infield and outfield."