Kayla Lamphier is using her speed, defense and newly found power to catapult FPC to a chance at a district championship.
In softball, a solid lead-off hitter and superb center fielder are two must-haves. Normally, both qualities aren’t found in one player; however, for the Flagler Palm Coast Lady Bulldogs softball team, they are.
Meet Kayla Lamphier.
“Kayla is a triple threat as a lead-off hitter,” said FPC coach Sarah Poppe. “Opponents don’t know if she is going to slap, drag or hit away, because she does well at all of them. She is extremely fast on the bases, gets great jumps, and is also a smart runner.”
Lamphier began playing softball at age 5. As a freshman at FPC, she had a successful tryout and recalls being given two options.
“During tryouts, the junior varsity coach asked if I’d rather start on JV or sit on varsity,” Lamphier said Thursday, April 7, hours before a home game.
“Varsity was my goal since I was little — to make varsity as a freshman.”
And with that in mind, Lamphier chose the “sit on varsity” option. However, that didn’t last long.
By the time the first regular-season game came, Lamphier was the starting center fielder and lead-off hitter for the Lady Bulldogs.
In Lamphier’s sophomore season, a new coaching staff took over, including Poppe as head coach.
Lamphier said it was a different environment, but one that she enjoyed more. The Lady Bulldogs lost in the semifinals of the district tournament that year.
As a junior, Lamphier was finally able to focus more on just being a center fielder.
“Freshman year, I played center field and I pitched,” she said. “Sophomore year, I pitched quite a bit, too.”
Lamphier didn’t pitch at all her junior year, and she loved having the opportunity to develop as an outfielder — the position she hopes to play in college.
Throughout her junior year and coming into her senior season, Lamphier began to focus more on getting base hits rather than just slapping the ball into play.
She came into high school as a right-handed batter, but was advised to become a slap-hitter as a left-handed batter. Doing that would decrease the amount of time it would take her to reach first base. Ever since, she has become strictly a left-handed batter.
The switch has paid off for Lamphier, as she leads the Lady Bulldogs (15-6) in several offensive categories this season, including 31 runs scored, 41 hits, six doubles, three triples (tied with one other player), a .554 batting average and 21 stolen bases. Lamphier is also second on the team with two home runs.
Both home runs are the only two Lamphier has hit in her softball career, and both were inside-the-park home runs.
Still, Lamphier isn’t a power hitter, according to her coach. Instead, she’s seeing the ball better and now has the ability to “slap with power.”
“She really sees the ball well,” Poppe added. “She reads pitches better and understands what type of hit is needed of her based on the game situation.”
Defensively, Lamphier is the whole package, Poppe said.
“Kayla is so fast, and her arm is remarkable — accurate and strong,” Poppe said. “She gets good jumps on balls and steals base hits from many players.”
Lamphier — who is called “Shorty” by her teammates and coaches — plans to attend the University of Tampa in the fall.
Though she doesn’t have any offers, she intends to try out and hopefully become a walk-on player.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to make it,” Lamphier said with a competitive grin. “I will make the team.”
And her coach thinks she has a good shot, too, adding that getting Lamphier as a walk-on would be somewhat of a steal.
“I think Tampa would be lucky to have her,” Poppe said. “Not only is her athletic ability exceptional, but she’s a great student and an even greater person.”
But Lamphier got somewhat emotional when talking about her final games as a high school player.
“I think we’ll be OK as long as we end on good note, and that’s a district championship,” Lamphier said.
The Lady Bulldogs will be the No. 2 seed in next week’s district tournament, and if everything falls into place, it could mean a showdown with district foe and top-seeded DeLand for the title — a team Lamphier has never tasted victory against in her four-year high school career.
“I don’t want to graduate until we beat DeLand,” she said.
Contact Andrew O’Brien at [email protected].