‘The drive to play’Published 8:05pm Saturday, May 4, 2013
King’s Fork High School junior Kayla Harbin has made her presence known on the softball field in her first year with the varsity team. After another stellar game at bat last week, she earned a nomination and 392 votes to become the Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week.
Against Oscar Smith High School, she got a hit in each of her five at-bats, including a triple. She scored two runs and was responsible for five runs batted in.
“She was huge in that game,” Lady Bulldogs head coach Richard Froemel said. “She’s had a couple games where she (had) four hits and five hits.”
When asked what has helped her come on so strong offensively this year, she said, “My team supporting me and helping me, and I had my softball coach Saturday, that weekend before, helping with my hitting, and showing me what I was doing wrong. Then, I was coming into the Oscar Smith game thinking, ‘I’m going to hit the ball. I know what I’ve got to work on.’ And then if it wasn’t good the first at-bat, then I’d fix it and keep progressing with it.”
Harbin bats fifth in the order. Froemel noted that the ideal batting order starts with two contact hitters followed by power hitters in the third and fourth spots.
“And then you want to start that all over again with somebody who’s a contact hitter, (who) gets on, and she definitely does fit that,” Froemel said. “Very rarely does she strike out or swing at bad pitches.”
Harbin traces the start of her relationship with softball back to her father, James Harbin.
“I used to watch him play slow pitch, and it was really interesting to me because my family’s athletic,” she said. “My mom played co-ed, my brother did golf and soccer, and it started from watching how men’s slow pitch was, and it made me want to try when I moved to Suffolk.”
Her father recalled it well.
“I played a lot of slow pitch, and I always had her at the ball field with me,” he said. “I think a lot of her mentality of the game when she’s on that field as far as her focus comes from watching a bunch of grown men play ball, and we took it pretty (seriously).”
He first coached her when she was 6 years old in Bennett’s Creek Little League, where she played for four years. Then, she moved on to a travel ball squad called Team Dynasty.
“My dad started the team for me,” she said.
She played there for four years and is now with the Hampton Roads Vipers when she is not playing with King’s Fork.
A veteran at third base, her favorite position, Harbin admits that neither her offensive nor defensive abilities came immediately.
“I had to acquire the skills, because I wasn’t that good when I started,” she said.
“I’ve always told her, ‘Don’t forget where you came from,’” James Harbin said. “’Put your team ahead of you, and you’ll be a success at any sport you play.’”
She made a point of voicing her gratitude to her teammates for a great season this year.
Seeing what she is capable of now as a junior in high school, her father said, “I’m proud of her. She’s always had the drive to play.”
Kayla related what has fueled that drive to play her best: “My motivation was for my dad to come see me.”
Following are this week’s Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week nominees:
- Preston Firnstahl, junior for Nansemond-Suffolk Academy tennis — In a 6-3 team win against Hampton Roads Academy on Tuesday, he won his singles match, 6-0, 6-0, and teamed with Jackson DeMello to win doubles, 8-1. Though his team lost 5-4 on Friday to Norfolk Christian School, he came back in his singles match from a 6-1 first-set loss to win the next one, 6-3, and the tie-breaker, 10-2. He and DeMello won their doubles match, 8-5.
- Sydney Glover, senior for Nansemond River High School softball — In a wild 4-3 win over King’s Fork High School on Tuesday, she pitched the final three innings and engineered a shutout in the sixth when the Lady Bulldogs had the bases loaded with no outs. For the game, she threw three strikeouts, allowing two hits and one run, and she also went 2-for-4 at bat with two runs scored.
- Jasmine Holloman, sophomore for King’s Fork High School softball — In an 11-0 road win against Indian River High School on Thursday, she scored two runs and went 3-for-4 with a double and what was essentially a grand slam home run, though it was officially called a four-bag award since the outfielder got a glove on it in a failed attempt at a put-out.
Vote by 7 p.m. Wednesday by sending an email with the subject “Player of the Week” to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also vote on our Facebook page.
Next Sunday, we’ll feature the readers’ choice in a story on the sports page.
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