Willard headed to Lees-McRae

Published 5:07 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

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Next year’s Lees-McRae College softball team will have a coastal feel to it next spring as Northside senior Taylor Willard became the third Panther to commit to the Banner Elk school.

Willard is a center fielder and left-handed pitcher and joins twins Jaden and Jorden Clark as 20205 Bobcats.
“They didn’t pressure me, but they did encourage me to give Lees-McRae strong consideration,” Willard said. “I’ve played with them for a really long time and it will be fun to keep going. I liked the mountains and the coaches a lot on my visit and it seems like the best spot for me.”

Willard hit .356 and stole six bases for a Panthers team that went 20-5 and made it to the fourth round of the 1A state tournament last spring.

She had a hit and drove in a run in Tuesday’s 9-0 opening day home victory over Manteo.

“It’s a little strange because I coached her mom (Rebecca) on our very first team back in the late 90’s,” said coach Keith Boyd, who took over the head coaching duties this spring after many years with the baseball team. “Taylor is a very good outfielder and she’ll bat in the top four or five spots in our order. I’m happy she has a chance to keep playing.”

Willard started playing T-ball in the Bath rec league when she was five and has played ever since. She started playing travel softball when she was 14 and said that’s when playing in college entered her mind.

“I’ve watched college softball on television for a long time, but started to become real when I did well in travel ball,” she said. “We went to the World Series in Orlando a couple of summers ago and I hit well and didn’t make any errors against good competition. I met quite a few coaches at camps and they encouraged me to keep working. I’m excited about it, but also looking forward to having a fun, successful final season here.”

Willard plans on majoring in Physical Therapy at Lees-McRae.