It’s a dream that only a few seniors get to achieve. A goal that took practice, dedication, and sacrifice. But mostly, having a love for the game. For Kaylee DeVivi, that dream was achieved and marked a new journey for her. Last Wednesday, DeVivi signed her national letter of intent to play softball for Longwood University for the spring of 2021.
“It’s exciting. It’s exciting to be able to go out there and play for the love of the game and not for impressing people,” said DeVivi.
One of the reasons that DeVivi chose Longwood is the coaching staff, which is led by Kathy Riley. Riley has led the Lancers to five NCAA Tournament appearances, five Big South Conference Tournament championships, and three Big South Conference championships.
“The coaches have impacted me. Not just on the field but off the field too. They have a relationship with each of their players, and for that, I think that’s a big thing,” said DeVivi, “Because going into something like that is going to be a huge change. They compete for the Big South championship almost every year.”
When DeViVi joins the Lancers, she will play alongside recent Tunstall graduate Nia Green. Green, who played with DeVivi for three seasons, will act as a critical part of DeVivi’s transition into Longwood.
“Its one of the major things I’m looking forward to is being there with Nia,” said DeVivi, “I actually talk to her regularly and for her to be there and know what it’s like for the first year is going to be helpful.”
Originally, DeVivi was a Virginia Tech verbal commit dating back to her freshman year. Unfortunately, due to a fallout between the program and DeVivi, she was then considered uncommitted, but the situation didn’t affect DeVivi.
“Longwood actually offered me before Virginia Tech did in 2016. So when things fell through with Tech, I wasn’t concerned, but I knew I had to produce,” said DeVivi.
This past season, DeVivi was named Piedmont District Pitcher of the Year. She also was named to First Team All-District, First Team All-Region, First Team Class Three All-State, and Regional Player of the Year. DeVivi also broke the state doubles record.
Over the course of her high school career, DeVivi was fortunate to have her father, Caine DeVivi, as her head coach. DeVivi said that her passion for softball came from when she watched her father helped with the GW-Danville program as a young girl.
“With my dad being my coach, it’s been good and bad. He’s taught me more than anyone else,” said DeVivi, “It’s going to be one of the hardest transitions leaving here. Knowing that I’m leaving someone who has been by me forever. Its been a great experience.”
Caine said that Kaylee has played a tremendous part in the Tunstall softball program.
“Over the years, any player that you get that has a good work ethic is a good teammate and has a tendency to put other’s wants and needs in front of their own is very valuable,” said Caine, “Kaylee has those characteristics.”
“It has been an absolute blessing for me to have the opportunity to coach the program with such fine young ladies, but to coach my own daughter within the program,” said Caine, “Its been a driving force for me for many years and it has also been a great working relationship. Its been a privilege to coach her and most parents/coaches, it can be a nightmare. I could not have asked to have a better kid to coach.”
Kaylee said that her goal this season is to win the Piedmont District. She will major in Biology next fall.
Grant Elliott commits to UNC Pembroke
It was the day that Grant Elliott has been looking forward to for months: National Signing Day. Elliott verbally committed to the University of North Carolina - Pembroke, back on August 2nd. Last Wednesday, Elliott was able to turn that verbal commitment into writing, signing his National Letter of Intent with UNCP.
Through the years of hard work and time wondering where his baseball career might end up, Elliott wouldn’t have imagined the player that he’d become. The same can be said for Tunstall head coach Barry Shelton. Shelton was astonished by how quickly Elliott adjusted from the time Elliott joined the varsity program.
“We did not realize that he was going to play at the level that he played as a freshman. He’s not of all anything. He has so much confidence in himself that he played like a veteran on the field as a freshman, and he contributed big time.” said Shelton.
“It was back in 2016. Grant was on the JV (junior varsity) team, and I was having conversations with our JV coaches about how our team was struggling hitting,” said Shelton, “And both JV coaches Matt Shelton and Adam Louhoff and they said ‘Well, you have a hitter coming.’. What they said was absolutely true because from the day he got up to varsity, he started out hitting, and he’s been hitting the whole time. He has been an elite player for us.”
Elliott will be able to enter his senior season relaxed, knowing that he will be able to continue his baseball career next spring.
“I’m just trying to soak at the moment because it only happens once in a person’s lifetime,” said Elliott, “Being committed, its a big relief, and before colleges were seeing me, I wasn’t really worried about not being talked to. I knew something was going to come. But I just kept on working, do what I was supposed to, keeping a good attitude, and keep on playing ball.”
Elliott has played for multiple travel baseball organizations, including USSSA, Dirtbags and also participated in 2018, 2019 Virginia Commonwealth Games in Lynchburg. All were played in front of college scouts. Over the course of three years, Elliott had enjoyed the recruiting process.
“It’s pretty nice how colleges can talk to all of these recruits and go to all of the camps get seen there along with the tournaments,” said Elliott, “Everywhere you go, you never know who’s watching, and that’s why for me, I always played a hundred percent. I go out and play normal baseball that I usually do.”
Elliott’s time spent with the game has paid off with the honor rolling in. Eliott was named to First Team All-District all three years and was named to First Team All-Region in the last two seasons. Last season was Elliott’s first time being called on First Team All-State. He led Tunstall in batting average in two of his three seasons. Elliott batted .443 his freshman year and .449 last season. Not to mention that he also hit .418 his sophomore year.
Entering this season, Elliott is tied with Jeff Jefferson with Tunstall’s double record with 34. Jefferson is also the head coach at UNCP that recruited Elliott. Elliott admitted that even though he is aware of the record, it is not his top priority.
“I think about it here and there, but I still haven’t gotten the award yet,” said Elliott, “Once I get it, it will be a weight off my shoulders. Since I’m right there at it, I can go get that doubles record. It’s just a nice thing to know what I’m capable of.”
Building a relationship with a coach is a critical part of any athlete’s colligate journey. For Elliott, it will be a smooth transition considering that Jefferson came from Tunstall and know what Elliott is going through.
“I feel like I can have a great relationship with him (Jefferson). All the coaches at UNC-Pembroke are great, and you can also tell by their stats and records every year,” said Elliott, “First time I met all the coaches, they were all great people and if I was to make UNC-Pembroke my home for the next four years, I would have the easiest four years of my life.”
Like any high school senior playing baseball, there is always the thought of the possibility of being drafted. Elliott said that thought had crossed his mind a couple of times. The last time a player was drafted out of Tunstall was back in 2009 when Joe Mantiply was drafted by the New York Mets.
“Some people’s minds change, but for me, not many people have a chance to play any type of professional baseball,” said Elliott, “For me, if I had the chance, I would definitely take any offer to play pro baseball. And I think that would be a great thing to go through.”
Elliott will major in Sports Management once he enrolls at UNCP.