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Catcher Haley Dukes signs to play with John A. Logan

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – Never underestimate the importance of a friend when it comes to making a college decision.

That is exactly what Bullitt Central senior softball player Haley Dukes did recently when she decided to play softball the next two seasons at John A. Logan, a junior college in Carterville, Ill.

Last week, Dukes made it all official in a ceremony at Bullitt Central that included her family, coaches and teammates.

Dukes had a friend already at John A. Logan as former teammate Katie Hutchison will be a freshman for the Lady Vols this upcoming season. Hutchison was a big part of the welcoming party when Dukes made a visit to school in October.

“I practiced with the team when I was there in October,” Dukes said after the ceremony at Bullitt Central. “Everybody was nice and friendly and the campus was beautiful.

“Katie Hutchison was there. That made me feel welcome,” the senior added. “I knew then that is where I would go.”

(Dukes also met up with two former rivals as Bullitt East graduates Taylor Price and Kirsten Price will both be sophomores for the Lady Vols this spring. But since John A. Logan is a junior college, those two players will graduate before Dukes arrives.)

“The first contact was me contacting Katie and I followed what they had done with her,” Dukes said. “She said I would like to be there. I contacted the coach and my first visit was my last visit.”

Dukes also considered playing at Spalding University and Mid-Continent College, but it quickly became obvious to here that John A. Logan would be the next stop for her.

“They all said that they loved it there,” Dukes recalled. “They said everyone was easy to get along with. That it was fun and they loved the coaches.”

The 17-year old daughter of Garry and Sherri Dukes has been a member of the Bullitt Central softball program since she was in the sixth grade. Both of her parents are North Bullitt graduates. In fact her father was at one time the leading scorer in basketball for the Eagles, but their only daughter has long been in the Bullitt Central camp.

“I get told that a lot,” Dukes said of being at BC with two NB parents. “I had the best opportunity to play softball here.”

Dukes also has a younger brother, Cameron, a sophomore who plays football, basketball and baseball.

Dukes has also been a starter with the Bullitt Central volleyball program, but softball was always her first love. It was a love that she wanted to take to the next level.

“Everybody has always known that I wanted to play at the college level and that I had that potential,” Dukes said. “I knew it would be a mistake not to play (in college). Softball is the only sport I love with all my body.”

For pretty much her entire varsity career at Bullitt Central she has been behind the plate. As early as her sophomore year, former pitching coach and now head coach Mike Phillips gave her the green light to call the pitches behind the plate during even the most important games.

“Catching is all I want to do,” Dukes said. “But wherever they want to put me, I’ll do whatever helps the team.

“I’ve played a little shortstop and some first base,” she added. “I’ve played everywhere but pitcher. Everything is fine with me as long as I get to play.”

Dukes started playing softball in the Bullitt County Youth League before switching over to the Mount Washington Youth Baseball/Softball League. This past summer, she played with the Derby City Crush, a traveling team, but she said that she will not be playing softball after the high school season.

The head coach at John A. Logan is Bruce Jilek. The Lady Vols had a 30-17 record last year and reached the Region 24 Final Four before having the season come to an end. John A. Logan is part of the National Junior College Athletic Association and is a member of the Great Rivers Athletic Conference.

Not every high school softball player is cut out to be a catcher.

“That is where her position is,” Phillips said. “That’s why she has been there since she was in the eighth-grade. It didn’t take us long to figure out where she needed to be.

“She has the mentality and arm (to be a catcher),” the coach said. “She certainly enjoys playing the position."