HEBRON ESTATES – St. Catharine University softball coach Holly Smith killed two birds with one stone recently, when she signed North Bullitt softball standouts Elise Mills and Carly Benz on the same day.
In fact, Smith and her assistant coaches have found the way to Bullitt County a number of times this year. A few weeks earlier, St. Catharine assistant coach Felicia Smith (the two coaches are not related) was in Mount Washington getting the signature of Bullitt East catcher Kelsey Gravens.
“I think they both have a chance to have an impact as freshmen,” North Bullitt softball coach Mike Nally said of the two seniors. “St. Catharine saw the two of them at a showcase and they got approached. Then they saw us in some summer tournaments.”
The two players will join a St. Catharine program that posted a 22-30 mark last season under Smith. That Lady Patriot team was only 9-21 in the Mid-South Conference of the NAIA.
“I’ve watched them play for a few years now,” Smith said after she got all the paperwork signed. “Coach (Butch) Bibb (a summer team coach) kind of talked to them about St. Catharine and got them interested. We got them in to see us and here we are.”
St. Catharine has both a varsity and junior-varsity program so there are normally 30 players in the program at any one time. Smith said she planned to sign about ten players this season for the 2014 fall campaign.
“I have a pretty good group coming in,” the coach said. “They are good kids academically. That’s exciting.”
The 17-year old daughter of Patty Mills picked St. Catharine because of their nursing program.
“I have been thinking about it for a while now,” Mills said after signing all the paperwork in a ceremony in the North Bullitt Media Center. “But this year I decided it would be St. Catharine.”
Mills also had contact with Campbellsville University and Indiana University Southeast about becoming a student, but St. Catharine was the only offer she had that included softball.
Mills has two younger siblings, 14-year twins Taylor and Travis.
In the spring, Mills will be playing in the North Bullitt program for the fifth year. She has shared the pitching duties at times in the past, but this upcoming season the job will hers on a full-time basis.
Mills came to softball later than most girls, not playing the sport until she was 12-years old in the Blue Lick Optimist Youth League. This past summer, Mills played with the Louisville Storm program.
“I really want to say thanks to my mom,” Mills said. “She helps me so much. All of my coaches have been wonderful also.”
Smith feels that Mills will eventually be a strong pitcher on her team, but that it will take some time.
“We’ll be working her into the pitching rotation as much as we can,” the coach said.
The Benz family has a long history with North Bullitt softball. Carly has been in the program since she was a sixth-grader and her older sister Devan was her teammate for a number of those years. She joined the Lady Eagle varsity team as an eighth-grader.
“I took a visit there over Fall Break,” Benz recalled. “When I went there I fell in love with the campus. I just felt comfortable.”
Before that, the senior had also talked with Spalding about softball as well as Georgetown College to be just a student.
“Then I fell in love with St. Catharine,” she said.
Most of her time at North Bullitt has been spent in the outfield and that is where she expects to play at he next level.
“I just want to go as far as I can with it and make the most of it,” she said of playing in college. “I’ll play wherever I can help the team.”
Benz has been helped along on her route to St. Catharine by her summer team coach Butch Bibb. He coaches the Kentucky Heat.
The 17-year old daughter of Tony and Sandy Benz also has a brother who attends North Bullitt. Blake Benz plays both baseball and football.
At St. Catharine, Benz plans to major in special education and then become a teacher. That could lead into her coaching at some point.
Benz also played two years on the North Bullitt girls’ golf team.
“I have to get out of that swing now,” she said with a smile.
Softball for Benz started in the Okolona Youth League when she was 7-years old. She played there for two years before switching to summer travel teams.
“I want to thank coach Bibb for everything he did,” Benz said of her summer coach. “He has watched me grow up.”
Benz will get to use her speed right off the bat.
“She is a lefty slapper with good speed,” Smith said. “We’re graduating several outfielders. We’re looking to fill those spots.”