DOBSON — North Surry’s Hayley Tickle has chosen Surry Community College to play softball next year.
Tickle says she plans to play one year at SCC before transferring to another school for her major.
The Lady Greyhounds’ softball team has made a drastic turnaround over the past two years, and players are starting to reap the benefits of that success.
Molly Martin signed with N.C. State last year, and fellow 2014 senior Bailey Culler is headed to Tusculum College.
The Hounds went 18-5 this season, 9-2 in the Western Piedmont Conference. Last year the team was 15-7, giving North a two-year mark of 33-12.
This spring, the Hounds won 90 percent of their games against everyone but Forbush, which had the Hounds’ number in three wins.
Hayley, the daughter of Marc and Chris Tickle, was a big part of the team’s offense as the cleanup hitter.
In the 23 games, Hayley came up to bat 95 times and only struck out five times, said Marc. She had 27 doubles and more than 20 singles along with a bunch of RBIs, he said. That earned her a spot on the all-conference first team this year.
In her first two years at North, Hayley stood out on the JV team.
“I played outfield, shortstop, first, anywhere they needed me, pitching,” she said. One season she was named the team’s most outstanding defensive player and in the other she got most outstanding offensive player.
In her junior year, she spent a lot of time in the pitcher’s circle.
“I didn’t see much time there” this season, she said. “I was mainly first base.”
“I love being someone who can play anywhere they need me because I feel like I can contribute a lot to the team,” she said.
She started playing when she was eight, recalled Marc.
“She came through the house one day and saw it on the TV,” Marc said of her introduction to softball. “I was watching the College World Series, and she asked me what that was. … She took a liking to it and never looked back.”
“Softball is the only sport I played,” said Hayley.
Asked what she loves about the game, Hayley replied, “Everything. I like batting the most though.”
As for a favorite memory from her career, Hayley said beating East Surry in both meetings this year ranks very high.
One of those wins came from a massive comeback after being down 9-0 through five innings.
Hayley came up with the bases loaded and doubled in all three runners to make it 9-3 and started the comeback. She also drove in multiple runs against South Stokes in coming back from 9-3 to win 11-10.
There was also a nine-inning game against Surry Central that the Hounds pulled out.
“Driving in the winning run against West Wilkes,” Marc said of his favorite memories. “They put a hurting on us last year. They had the bases loaded, two outs and a full count on her. She hit a base-clearing double that scored the runs to win the game.”
North Surry head coach Willie Hodges said jokingly during the season, “We like for people to get their money’s worth. It was exciting, too.”
Since the school season ended, Hayley has been playing with an AAU team.
SCC had been actively watching her the past few weeks in travel ball, the family said.
Because the Surry Storm didn’t have a team for her age group anymore, Hayley switched to the North Carolina Vipers team.
The head of the Vipers organization is Eddie Jones of Eden, said Marc, but the head coach is Keith Cummings, whose daughter Emily is an all-conference player for East Surry.
Hayley’s North Surry teammates Taylor Hill and Abby Martin are with her on the team where she pitches and plays the field.
Of SCC head coach Blaine Bullington, Marc said, “He came down last Sunday to our Vipers practice. We just thought he was coming to look at her again. He came and watched her pitch and play first a little bit. He offered her a position. It kind of took us by surprise. We were all floored by this. She was tickled to death for the opportunity to play for him.”
Getting noticed in this area is hard to do as Marc said, “There’s a lot of good talent around here.”
Indeed. In addition to East Surry’s long streak of making the playoffs, Surry Central has had some great players in the past few years. Forbush, North Stokes and East Wilkes all went deep into the playoffs.
Asked what SCC likes about her game, Hayley said, “They told me I had a lot of potential and that I’ll see a lot of different positions when I do join the team.”
Bullington has been part of the SCC coaching staff for three years, the past season as head coach.
He said he wasn’t able to see North play until the conference tournament, but had read news stories about the team’s great success. At one point the Lady Greyhounds were 16-2 and were even ranked first in the state for 2A for a while.
“I could understand by watching them play while they won 11 or 12 in a row. That was a good group,” he said. “They’re all about softball, that team was. Hayley was a big part of that.
“What I saw that night was that she’s all in when it comes to playing the game. When it comes to playing ball in college, you have to be that way and have that mindset.
The Lady Knights will play 15-20 games in the fall and practice every day, he said, then spend the winter in the weight room. Hayley’s the kind of player willing to put in that work.
“When you’re looking at a junior college, you’re looking for player who can help in a lot of different ways. It’s a bonus that she can hit .400.
“We’re going to play a 48-game season. She’s definitely going to see a lot of innings on the mound. What I told her the other day was, ‘If you can hit, we’re going to find a place for you.’
“I’m glad that we’ve got a local player. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a really good year for Hayley and a really good year for us.”
Among the seven young women joining the Knights is Forbush’s Regan Gentry, an honorable mention for all-conference.
While Hayley’s mom is thrilled that her daughter will get to continue her playing career, Chris is also proud of Hayley’s classwork.
“The most memorable thing for me is just her whole senior year of high school,” Chris said. “She really came out to be a big hitter and a better player, and she really matured a lot. It was her year to shine — and still hit the books. She was a cum laude graduate.”
Hayley was the only senior to graduate who had never missed a day, Chris noted. She had 14 years of perfect attendance from preschool to getting a diploma.
While she’s had the odd cold, Hayley was fortunate not to have any major illness or injury that would have prevented her from going to school, said her mom.
“She’s never been bad off — except when she was born,” said Marc.
Hayley was one of fraternal twins with sister Kaitlyn.
“She was a preemie, that’s the only time she’s spent in a hospital. I think that’s why she’s tougher now. She had to start out life in a fight,” said Chris.
As for her classes, Hayley said, “I’m planning to go into radiology. So I’m going to come here for one year and take my basic classes that I need for my radiology degree, then go to Forsyth Tech.”