Kylie Brown is the fourth member of the Aztec softball team's senior class to sign with a college prior to the start of the season
FARMINGTON — With still one season to go in her high school career, versatile Aztec infielder Kylie Brown has committed to play softball next year at Yavapai College in Yavapai County, Ariz.
Surrounded by family members and coaches, Brown, a senior, signed her national letter of intent today at Aztec High School. She said Roughriders coach Doug Eastman made her feel like part of the team when she visited the community college.
"I chose Yavapai because I really liked the coaching they had," Brown said. "When I went for my visit, I had to catch for (former Centennial pitcher) Santana Parra actually, and instead of just watching me, (Eastman) coached me and tweaked a bunch of my stuff on catching, and I really liked that."
All five Aztec seniors — Brown, Ashlynn Bradley, Paige Adair, CheyAnn Simkins and Sarrah Jones — will officially be committed to colleges before their senior seasons after Jones signs with Arizona's Pima Community College, which Lady Tigers coach Roy Johnson said she's expected to do next week.
Brown said it was important for her to sign during the winter so she would have one fewer thing to worry about during the season.
"It definitely takes a lot of pressure off, not having to go into that senior year having to look for a college," Brown said. "Now I can just play. And get better."
Jones will join Adair at Pima, while Simkins and Bradley will play together at Western Texas College, meaning Brown will be solo on her next journey. She said she had the opportunity to join Adair and Jones at Pima, but thinks playing under the Yavapai coaching staff will be the best thing for her.
"I would have loved to go with anybody else, because they're like my family," Brown said. "I just really had to look at personally how I felt toward Pima and Yavapai."
Johnson, who led Aztec to the 5A state championship game during his first season as head coach, said locking up college scholarships for all five of his seniors prior to the start of the season was the coaching staff's goal.
"We really encouraged them to sign before their senior year, that way they just have one thing on their mind, which is winning the state championship," Johnson said. "That's what we try and do for our program. We don't always get players signed until they're seniors, but with these five girls, they're probably the best five girls in the state of New Mexico."
Brown, who plans to focus her studies on the medical field with an eye on majoring in athletic training, hit mostly out of the fourth or fifth slot in the batting order as a junior. She thrived to the tune of a .439 batting average to go along with four home runs and 35 runs batted in.
"Depending on the day, her and Jocelyn Ulrich would go four and five," Johnson said. "They're both good home run hitters. Can hit the ball long and drive in a lot of runs. And (Brown) has done that for us her whole career."
Defensively, Brown has been a coach's dream, showing the ability to play well at multiple infield spots. During her career at Aztec, Brown has spent time at first, second and third base, and at catcher. Johnson said he anticipates catcher will be her primary position at Yavapai.
Softball attributes aside, the Lady Tigers' coach said he thinks Yavapai will benefit from Brown's leadership.
"Usually, you're lucky as a coach if you can get one senior that wants to step up and be a leader. With all five of these girls, no one takes a backseat in the leadership role," Johnson said. "I think that's because we instill that in our program."
Yavapai is a part of the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference, under the National Junior College Athletic Association. The Roughriders went 50-17 last season.
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.