Extra work got UK softball commit ticket to SEC dream

Published 9:30 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

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Only some high school recruiting processes are the same and Florida pitcher Julie Kelley knows hers certainly was not the norm.

“A lot of girls in my recruiting class committed in the fall of their junior year. I did not get the (recruiting) result I wanted. I talked to my dad, put my head down and got better. My goal since I was a little girl was to go to a Power-Five school,” said Kelley.

Now she’s going to a Power-Five school in the Southeastern Conference — her dream conference — after verbally committing to Kentucky in July after an excellent travel ball season.

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“I knew if I could get my speed up in the high school season and then in the summer the offers would come that I wanted,” she said. “I got to where I was throwing 65 miles per hour consistently.

“I wouldn’t have changed any part of what I went through. I think it made me a better athlete. When people tell you to trust the process I could not grasp what they really meant. But now I do. Once I talked to the coaches at Kentucky, I just knew that was it, and I still can’t believe I am going to be playing there.”

She had changed pitching coaches, and Brandon Carr told her to give him six months, and she would gain four miles per hour on our fastball. She was throwing 62 miles per hour but knew she needed to get to 66 to play in the SEC. He also helped convert her from a rise ball pitcher to a pitcher with a terrific drop ball as well.

“I put in a lot of work on my own. I started taking nutrition seriously. I had always tried to eat somewhat healthy but never was real intent on that before,” Kelley said

She started working on being in better shape and was getting up at 5:30 a.m. five days a week to work out to help make her dream come true.

Kelley was part of a historic game her junior season when she pitched Spruce Creek High School to a 1-0, 14-inning, four-hour win over Florida State commit Jazzy Francik and Melbourne High School. The two pitchers were teammates on Fury Platinum X 18 under team and are good friends off the field.

Both pitchers had no-hitters at the end of regulation play. Both pitchers threw over 200 pitches and gave up just a combined seven hits and seven walks in 27 2/3 innings. Kelley had 31 strikeouts and Francik 33.

“Nobody could score a run in that game. She is an extremely good pitcher and we won on an error,” Kelley said. “It was a pretty crazy game that did not get over until 11:30 at night.”

Kelley started playing softball at age five and played soccer until she was 11 and then chose to stick with softball.

“I was watching girls play (softball) on TV and I decided I wanted to be like them,” Kelley, who lives in Ormond Beach, said. “I had always watched Kentucky softball because they play in the SEC but I didn’t know that much about Kentucky. It was the only school in the SEC that I never went to a softball camp at. We talked about that on my visit.”

Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson saw Kelley play in a tournament in Colorado last summer after her coach, who is friends with the UK coach, was “hyping” her up to Lawson.

“She came to watch a workout and I did very well. She came back the next game to watch me and I was consistently clocking 65 (miles per hour) and my drop ball was working. I also hit a home run,” Kelley said.

Kelley hit .348 combined the last two years with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. She also had 396 strikeouts in 238 innings with a 1.38 earned run average as batters hit only .166 against her.

She played travel ball with four current UK freshmen — infielder Cassie Reasner of Alabama along with in-state utility players Emory Donaldson of Ballard, Peyton Plotts of Tates Creek and Ally Hutchins of McCracken County.

“Just getting to play with them and know them made it even easier to pick Kentucky,” she said.