By Aaron Snyder - CNHI News Service
Nov. 13, 2013 — For Kentucky Christian University, it’s an inception.
The school announced last Tuesday that a fastpitch softball program will be launched in the fall of 2014. It’s the first sport added to KCU’s repertoire since football in 2008.
For Ashland Blazer High School, it’s a reunion.
Current Ashland coach Dave Miller will take the reins of the Knights, and he’s bringing with him a star-studded cast of Kittens.
Katelyn Miller, Kelsee Hammonds and McKenzie Vanover all signed letters of intent on campus Tuesday afternoon to be part of Miller’s grand-opening team, which will take the field in the spring of 2015.
Miller will wrap up his final season with the Kittens this coming spring.
Bruce Dixon, KCU’s director of athletics, and Miller have engaged in many a conversation about this moment for the past few years.
“The timing was never quite right until now,” said Dixon inside KCU’s Nash Chapel. “We as a university have been looking at, where are places you want to try and grow? We didn’t have spring athletic programs and we also wanted to appeal to the female demographic. Softball presents a great opportunity.”
KCU will compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association. While there are certain stipulations on athletic scholarships, they will be awarded.
The Knights will play their home games at Championship Fastpitch Sports Complex, a five-field facility owned by Miller. The complex is located just behind the Boyd County Fairgrounds.
“What an awesome perk,” Dixon said of the facility. “The man (Miller) fit regardless of what he had with him, though. When we look for coaches, we’re looking for more than just a coach. Dave is a Christian, an elder in his church, and it’s obvious he has coaching expertise.”
Miller has guided Ashland to five consecutive 16th Region championships. He has been named All Area Coach of the Year twice and has compiled a 203-76 record since 2006.
While Miller is eager to take on this “huge challenge,” he said leaving Ashland is tough.
“It’s hard,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the administration all the way down to the kids. It was a tearful day when I made the announcement to them. It was my baby, I raised it and built it. It’s hard to let it go ...
“... But I’m taking a few (Kittens) with me,” he added with a smile.
Katelyn Miller, Dave’s daughter, is a 21-year-old marketing student at Morehead State University. Hammonds is also at MSU, studying elementary education. Both will enroll at KCU before the spring semester.
Katelyn was chosen the All-Area Pitcher of the Year three times. She was a first team All-State selection as a senior in 2011. Upon transferring, Miller expects to still have at least two years of eligibility.
Hammonds was Co-Player of the Year twice and first team All-State in 2012.
Vanover is currently an Ashland senior. The power-hitting right-hander was named Co-Player of the Year this past spring.
Both Miller and Hammonds admitted they’re a bit rusty.
“I was hitting off the tee the other day and (Coach Miller) said, ‘You look awkward,’” Hammonds said with a laugh.
Hammonds said she thought she was burnt-out on softball after graduating, but quickly learned otherwise.
It was pretty much a no-brainer to rejoin the Millers on the softball diamond, she said.
Said Katelyn: “It’s going to take lots of work to get back (to top form). But it’s nice to get a second shot.”
Dave Miller struggled to put into words what it means to coach his daughter again, but he said the fact that she and many other talented players in this area weren’t sought after by colleges was a major factor in his decision to be KCU’s first coach.
“Eastern Kentucky kids that often get overlooked won’t be overlooked anymore,” Miller said.
Miller said it’s “humbling” to be a centerpiece of KCU’s athletic program.
“Between the facilities we have coupled with the quality education they’ll receive, we can grow this program to be great,” he said.