Bailee New’s versatility was invaluable during the softball season.
The Abbeville High School graduate was listed on the Spartanburg Methodist College roster as a catcher and utility player. But the freshman played mostly outfield and even started at shortstop against Patrick Henry Community College.
Spartanburg Methodist softball coach Katie Hill cited the freshman’s willingness to play other positions when injuries or defensive liabilities left the team thin at certain spots.
She thrived in centerfield and earned Division I Region 10 first-team recognition as an outfielder.
“Bailee ended up having great speed and got really good reads on the ball, so she spent most of her time out there,” Hill said in an email. “That award was earned because of her hard work she put in. I am extremely proud of her.”
Becoming accustomed to centerfield required commitment. Opponents tested her range as she adjusted to the position.
“You have to be able to have your range,” New said. “It’s a lot of work. (The ball) is going to rise a little bit. It’s going to have a lot more movement and spin because they made good contact.”
She had a .965 fielding percentage in 85 chances, with a season-high six putouts in six chances in center against Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute.
“She is one of those kids that you wish you had 10 of, the ones that literally give you everything they have in the three hours of practice that you’re out there and they’re willing to play any position,” Hill said. “They’re not scared.”
New had the offensive numbers to back up her defensive play. She hit .312 in 47 games and led the team with 30 runs batted. Her seven home runs ranked second.
She had a season-high eight-game hitting streak and finished with 13 multi-hit games. Batting seventh in the order against Cleveland Community College, she led all players with four hits, a home run, double and two singles, and had four RBIs.
“Her numbers were good,” Hill said, “But I think that Bailee is very raw in talent, and I think that she has a lot of room to grow. Nine times out of 10 she is putting the ball in play, she did not have a lot of strikeouts on the year, which is great, but she has a couple of kinks in her swing that I want to work on this fall.”
Despite the production at the plate, New continued to work on her hand positioning during her swing.
“I turned over a lot and I was popping up a lot,” New said. I was leaning forward and I was reaching. As I was reaching, I would roll over.”
To get her hands right, she practiced off a tee. When she can’t get on the field, she keeps a bat in her room and repeatedly simulated her swing to make sure her hands were in the correct position.
This summer she is practicing by visiting area batting cages and hitting off a tee into a net in her yard. She is getting outfield and infield repetitions with friends.
“The main thing I’m working on is to not give up,” New said.