By Marty Gordon
Skylar Dehart has always been a Hokie. Her family has attended Virginia Tech sporting events and her brother attends there now. Wednesday, the Auburn High School pitcher made it official and signed a letter of intent to play softball there. She will be a preferred walk-on.
“Virginia Tech has always been in my top 5 schools for playing at the next level of softball. After years of traveling the U.S and attending many camps and college campuses, trying to keep my options open, I realized that Virginia Tech was definitely where I wanted to be,” she said.
Staying close to her family became a priority.
Playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) will definitely be exciting and maybe even a little daunting for DeHart, but she feels she’s up to the challenge. “I feel playing travel softball at the national level for the last 5 years has helped prepare me for the competition I will face there. Even though it will be hard, it will only make me better as a player. Over these years I have met a lot of softball friends that I competed with all over the country and now see them playing on TV which is pretty cool. Getting this opportunity is huge and I couldn’t be more blessed to be alongside some of the best talent in the country,” she said.
She started playing fast pitch softball at the age of nine and admits the biggest influence in her career would have to be her dad and pitching coach Ron Reynolds.
“They have both always supported and pushed me to become the best I can possibly be. My dad has spent countless hours catching me on a bucket and driving me to practice, sometimes as much as 5 hours away, only to drive another 5 hours back home in the same day. He allowed me to have this dream and gave me every opportunity to achieve it. While Ron’s knowledge on pitching has helped to shape me into the pitcher I am today,” DeHart said.
Her time on the diamond has included several travel teams including the Charlotte Starz and the Carolina Elite where she played under Josh Fisher’s 14U National team, traveling all of the U.S. She now plays for the Lady Lightning Gold.
She hopes her future career includes contributing in a positive way at Tech. She will be only the second left-handed pitcher on the team’s roster once she steps on the Blacksburg campus.
DeHart has dominated in the circle and has given her team a chance to win every game. She is 45-5 in her time of the circle for Auburn. She has 412 strikeouts in 292 innings and has held opponents to an unbelievable batting average low of .156.
Last year, she set a new school record with 220 strikeouts while putting together a 23-1 mark.
DeHart joined fellow Auburn players, Cortney Cochran (Eastern Mennonite) and Emily Scaggs (Emory and Henry), who signed on the dotted line Wednesday at the school’s library in front of family, friends, coaches and fellow players.
Three others, Leah Harrison (Virginia State), Machenzie Lawrence (Wingate) and Abby Wilson (Radford), signed letters of intent in December.
That brings the total number of six of the seven seniors on the Auburn softball team, moving on to play softball in college.
Hurd said this group of seniors has taken the program to another level. “We had made the state tournament in 2014 and 2015 and had great classes graduate in 2014, 2015 and 2016. This group came in 2016 and 2017 to the varsity team and have been excellent ever since,” he said.
The group has compiled a 64-11 record on the varsity level and need to win 21 games this season to be the winningest group of seniors in Auburn’s history.
The seventh member of the senior class, Becca Harding, could have played in college, but decided not to.
DeHart said she has learned a lot from this group. “I have learned with teamwork and believing in each other that you can do great things together. I have played with my high school teammates since the age of 8. We have all grown up together as players, we are family.”
Hurd noted all these kids have been fantastic to coach. “I am often asked about their talent, but it is their will to win that separates them. While I do believe this is the most softball talent, I have had at one time it is the practice habits these kids have that sets them apart. Kids are willing to dive, to put forth extra effort, to push the limits.”
He believes this group will be successful in college. “I think it has been such a part of their lives that they are atypically prepared to contribute and perhaps even contribute early,” Hurd said.
This spring, the team still has the goal of finally winning a state championship, something that has eluded them the past few years.
“Personally, I strive to be a better player today than yesterday, always support my teammates, stay humble, bring positive energy and learn from wins and losses,” DeHart said.
“I hope to challenge myself this year and break my own records and help lead my team in the first ever softball state championship at Auburn. Our schedule this year will be challenging but I feel the team is prepared to play. With the majority of the team being seniors, the time is now. We have to stay focused and believe.”
DeHart plans to major in Human Development at Virginia and pursue a career in the medical field.