When 2018 Ohio Outlaws pitcher Kylie Coffelt was in the seventh grade, she knew Duke University was where she wanted to attend college.
However, she quickly noticed a flaw in her future plans.
Though Coffelt was drawn to the university's renowned medical program and beautiful campus, the Blue Devils had no softball team at the time. And as a standout pitcher, Coffelt had her sights on playing the sport at the college level.
It wasn't until after her freshman season -- which saw Coffelt break the West Branch High School school record for most strikeouts in a single game and receive all-district, all-conference, and all-state pitcher honors -- that she saw a glimmer of hope to attend her "dream" school.
In July 2015, Duke announced the hiring of Marissa Young -- a three-time All-American pitcher who played at Michigan -- as its first head softball coach. Coffelt immediately set about getting noticed by the young program and its exciting new coach.
"When I heard that Coach Young was named coach, me and my dad went crazy," Coffelt said. "We started calling the school, calling the athletic department. We just started getting into it. When the first camps were announcement, I went to every single camp. I went to all the ones in North Carolina, I went to all of the ones in New Jersey, Michigan. I just kind of followed her wherever she was doing a camp."
Coffelt is not what you would expect from a pitcher who flows flames at 62 mph. At 5-foot-7, she is shorter than the average pitcher, but that's never stopped her on the mound.
"I kind of really wanted to impress her by just always being around so she could get to know me," Coffelt said. "By the Michigan camp she really got to know me because it was more one-on-one, like a smaller group of people. I just fell in love with the program and how she talked about it. Every time I went down to campus, I absolutely loved it. That was just my dream and I chased it like crazy."
Over the summer of 2016, Coffelt went to another camp with all of Young's other recruits and pitched well against them. At the end of the camp, Coffelt was then invited to a team dinner, where Young told Coffelt and her parents that she wanted to get the recruiting process started. Everything was going great, until Coffelt got a note that Duke required an ACT score of 25. Coffelt's score at that time was a 24.
"One point, it was bad," Coffelt said. "So she was like OK, we will hold out for you. We will wait for you. Just in September, go and take the ACT, and as soon as you get that 25 we can make an offer. So I studied three to four hours a day every single day of the summer, and I took it in September and I got the 25."
After some delay, Coffelt finally got an offer from Duke in October when she went to a camp.
"I was so happy," Coffelt said. "It was finally...all the hard work and everything finally paid off after months and months of torture. It was finally perfect, and I was finally where I wanted to be."
Coffelt's family is close, and her parents, grandparents, and sister can be seen at every game.
However, Coffelt's father, Bryan, isn't too worried about the distance from the home in Ohio to Durham, North Carolina.
"The school is a 7 to 8 hour drive, so not too bad," Bryan said. "We will see her as much as possible, especially because we love the sport of softball too. We have lived it for so many years. We will not know what to do when she is done playing!"
For Coffelt, life is definitely going to be changing soon.
"Not being around them, not having that family unit while I'm at Duke will be a problem," Kylie said. "I talk to my parents for hours every night just about days at school, about the past, and just everything. And that's part of the reason why I'm so excited I'll be playing softball at college. Because you don't have your family there but you create a new family. The coaches become almost like your parents, overseeing you and supporting you through everything. And your teammates are going to become like sisters and it's a family away from home."
Grad Year: 2018
Club Team: Ohio Outlaws
High School: West Branch
Hometown: Beloit, Ohio
Pitching Speed: 62 mph
Home to 1st: 2.95
What drew you to Duke?
I have always been interested in the medical field and Duke has an exceptional medical program. So I was always drawn to that and then their basketball team is amazing and that's always fun. And everything about it...it's the most beautiful campus I have ever seen.
What are your goals for the rest of high school?
I am hoping to get faster, get stronger. I pitch around 61-62 mph right now. I'm hoping to get closer to 64-65 by the time I graduate and I'm at Duke. I want to become an even better hitter. I just kind of want to be a player that's seen as an overall great player...wherever you put me, I want to be that type of player.
What are your long-term dreams and goals?
I want to be one of the best pitchers in the country. That would be pretty awesome. I really haven't thought about it too much other than I want to try to strive to be the best and go from there.
What would you say is your greatest strength on the field?
Probably my attitude and leadership. I'm always positive on the field whether i'm pitching or hitting. Wherever i'm at, I'm always trying to pick everybody up. I don't usually get down on myself too much. I can usually keep a pretty level head in any type of situation. And then pitching...that's probably my strongest thing I can do.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My parents. They started their own business. It's just crazy--they almost start from nothing and to see what they have become together. It's amazing, and they are just such great people. They are totally supportive with everything my sister and I do. They are always happy and encouraging and make light of any situation. They joke around, they laugh. They are definitely the kind of people I want to grow up to be.
Your aunt Rhonda Coffelt was a pitcher for the first Georgia Bulldogs team and earned All-America honors?
My parents didn't actually tell me at first. They are the type of people who don't want to push pressure on anybody. So they actually did not tell me that my aunt played for Georgia until I really started getting into it. Because they are not the type of people who like to pressure and say "you have to do this." They just let me find my way through it. After they told me, I got really inspired and was like "I really want to do it. It's super cool." So I would talk to her about recruiting stuff and what college is like and what playing college softball is like.
What is your favorite place you've traveled to?
Paris. My family and I traveled to Paris two summers ago and I loved it! It was such a beautiful place. We visited the Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, Louvre, Norte Dame, and an amazing cruise boat along the Seine.
What is your favorite holiday?
My favorite holiday has to be Christmas. I love getting people gifts and watching their reaction and seeing them be happy. To me, my favorite part of Christmas is watching how happy my family and friends get when see what I got them. I also love the family time of all going to church together, eating together, and opening gifts together.
What are you thankful for?
I'm very thankful for my friends and family. My family has supported me through every decision and through all of the ups and downs. No matter what I said, I wanted to do they were right behind me the whole time. My dad has pushed me to be who I am, my mom has loved me through everything, and my sister loves to make everyone feel better by being funny. Both sides of my grandparents are my #1 fans. I wouldn't have a smile on my face almost everyday if wasn't for them; they are the sweetest people I know. Also, I swear I have the best friends in the world. My friends have supported me from boy problems to stress of recruiting to cheering me up when I have a bad day.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Most people don't know that I have a crazy obsession over "Grey's Anatomy." I have watched every season four times...there's 13 seasons.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I like to play with my two dogs and six cats we have at home. I also like to buy outfits for my dog and make her wear them. I also love spending time with my friends and going to do fun things.
Which celebrity, alive or dead, would you like to meet?
A celebrity I would love to meet would have to be Adam Levine. He is always super funny on "The Voice," and his music is amazing. Maroon 5 is one of my favorite bands.
Do you have any softball superstitions or rituals?
I always have to wear a headband and a bow when I play. No exceptions. If I don't, I feel almost naked without it.
What is your dream vacation?
My dream vacation is going to the Bahamas.
Do you have a favorite club tournament?
My favorite tournament was Colorado tournament. When I went there two years ago we went whitewater rafting as a team. It was amazing. I also loved the fields at the tournament with the beautiful mountains in the background. Colorado is just such a beautiful place.
Any funny softball stories?
My funniest softball memory was when our coach made a deal with our Outlaws team that if we gave up no runs all weekend he would show us how to jump a fence. We ended up giving up no runs, so he had to jump the fence. But when it came down to it and all of the parents were watching, he chickened out. He did end up jumping the fence the next weekend.
The recruiting process can be stressful for both the player and the parents. Here is some advice from Kylie's father, B
"The recruiting process as a parent has been something like a long adventures trip, to a place never been before, good days and bad days, the stress of taking the short cut and getting lost further or wait it out and hopefully find the best way home."
Step One: Ask your eighth grader pick their top 5-10 schools she likes and make sure she has her major of interest.
Step Two: Get on a travel team that is one of the best in the state and make sure they go to tournaments that those schools will be at for recruiting.
Step Three: Go to all camps that those schools offer and be a standout at the camps.
Step Four: Keep doing it over and over until you have narrowed to your top two or three schools.
Step Five: When coaches have interest, your daughter must perform well in front of them. Again they have good days and some bad days. They are up late with school work and studying for the ACT. They just have to keep growing to get better every day.
"Kylie didn't just commit because all others were committing to schools that might not have been the best fit. Kylie kept focused on her dream and got it, so it was the greatest reward at the end of this grueling process."
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