SOUTH WEBSTER — Baylee Cox is keeping her commitment to playing college softball, and —in her own words —is grateful that Marietta College is keeping its to her.
That’s because Cox, the South Webster High School softball standout, officially announced her intention on Tuesday to play for the Marietta College Lady Pioneers — and vows to come back stronger than before following her surgery on Wednesday for her torn ACL.
Cox’s signing ceremony took place at South Webster High School, as she was flanked by her parents Adam Cox and Julie Vallandingham; step-parents Bob Vallandingham and Lori McNeil; South Webster High School softball head coach Andy Messer; her Lady Jeep teammates and several other family members and friends.
Cox captured all-Southern Ohio Conference Division II second-team honors as a sophomore, as well as all-Southeast District Division IV Honorable Mention accolades the same season.
Unfortunately, she will miss her senior softball season with the Lady Jeeps due to her torn ACL suffered in basketball practice last month, as she underwent successful surgery on the knee on Wednesday.
Cox will now focus on cheering on her South Webster teammates in 2020, as well as undertake her own recovery —and be ready to play for the Pioneers this time next year.
Marietta College is coached by second-year mentor Jenn Castle and assisted by Brianna Finck —and is a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference and the NCAA Division III.
Cox picked the Pioneer program because of not only proximity to Scioto County, but also its coaching staff was “super nice and super understanding of my injury”.
“They didn’t give me a timeline. They just told me whenever I felt comfortable to commit or if I didn’t want to at all, everything is fine with us. We’ll make sure you get back healthy. That was what was most important to me at that point,” she said. “Nobody took theirs (commitment to Cox) away, but Marietta was the most persistent.”
Cox, at six-foot tall, played first base for the Lady Jeeps —and was the big bat in the lineup in either the three-spot or cleanup position.
She said that while the ACL injury may or may not impact her defensive playing time, she should be able to contribute heavily as a designated hitter.
Either way, she has been through the hard work and work ethic before —just to earn a starting spot as a sophomore.
“Going from junior high to high school definitely taught me a lot about hard work just to get on the field as a freshman. It was definitely humbling. At the end of that year, I ended up winning the ‘Golden Glove’ (South Webster team award) for our team. The next year, I came back with the ‘Silver Bat’ (South Webster team award), and it meant everything to lead the team that way as an underclassman,” said Cox.
Now as a senior, she will lead the Lady Jeeps from the dugout —and will be the best teammate and mentor to several younger players.
She said she faces six months of rehabilitation from the surgery, but “is looking forward to it honestly”.
“In circumstance, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It took me a minute to realize that, because the last four weeks before this surgery have been rough. It’s not so much about the surgery, it’s more about the rehab that’s in my control,” said Cox. “I believe wholeheartedly that I can come back stronger than I was before.”
In addition to her knee, Cox said she needs to develop more strength in her arm and upper body.
“I had shoulder problems a lot last year and just played through them. That’s something I am going to be working on while I am out. Make sure I am conditioned in that way too. Not just with running and jumping,” she said.
Messer, beginning his third season coaching the Lady Jeeps, was glad to have coached Cox for his initial two.
However, he coached her throughout her entire youth and junior high career at South Webster.
“We’re going to miss her. That’s for sure. She’s been a great player and a great asset to our program. She has personality, great character, she is a hard worker and she means a lot to her friends on the team,” said Messer. “I wish her the very best, but we are going to miss her. She is going to be a difficult one to replace, and that’s not going to be easy at all. But I think she will actually adapt very well to the college level. She is able to make friends very well and therefore she will get along really well with her teammates. That’s a lot right there. As far as her abilities, she can swing the bat with the best of them and play first base with the best of them. She is a good athlete all the way around, and I don’t think it will take her long to get back to where she needs to be.”
Where she has been is at South Webster, and where she will be is at Marietta College.
She said she plans to major in Neuroscience, and intends to attend medical school for a future as a psychiatrist.
Her commitment for the next year, though, is to rehab her knee — and re-start her softball career as a Pioneer.
“South Webster has been the best it could be for me for sure. Both academically and athletically. I could tell there was definitely a connection. Teachers and coaches here care a lot about you personally, not just your grades or your batting averaging,” said Cox. “That’s why I’ve loved it here and it’s going to be tough to leave in May, but I’m ready to spread my wings, go to Marietta, take care of my rehab and get ready to play softball again next year.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved