Diminutive softball player Blair signs with D1 Eastern Kentucky
She stands only 4-foot-11, but Leilani Blair of Anchorage has always come up big on the softball field.
The speedy leadoff hitter won two state championships in high school and was part of a Junior League World Series title with Nunaka Valley.
Now she’s headed to Eastern Kentucky, a NCAA D1 school in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The four-time all-conference selection signed her letter of intent after taking her official visit.
“It seemed like a good fit for me,” she told me.
Blair, of South High fame, is one of the fastest players in Alaska. The right-handed batter runs from home plate to first base in 2.67 seconds.
Blair transferred to South Anchorage High School after helping East Anchorage win the 2013 state title. While at South she was named the team’s most valuable player in 2014, the defensive player of the year in 2015 and helped the Wolverines win their first state title this year.
She was also a member of the Arctic Storm, a competitive travel team that goes to tournaments in the Lower 48. The Eastern Kentucky coaches saw her play at a tournament in Colorado and liked what they saw, even though she didn’t show out.
“One of the things she said she liked about me was that I’m a heads up player,” Blair said. “I know where the next play is going to be.
“She also said I looked bigger on the field. I thought that was funny.”
The assistant coach watched three games before the head coach showed up for two games. She didn’t exactly make a good first impression.
“I played a very bad game. I remember that,” she said. “Not that she didn’t care about my performance, but she knew I was a heads up player. You can’t teach that. You can teach mechanics, but you can’t teach being heads up and knowing what’s going to be next.
At the plate, Blair hit leadoff for both her high school and comp team. She said half the time she reached base she scored.
She played short stop and third base on defense, but doesn’t know if that’s where she will play at Eastern Kentucky.
“They asked me where I saw myself playing and I would like to play some infield, but I think if they train me to be an outfielder I could be a really good outfielder because I have a lot of speed,” Blair said. “I’m open to trying new positions out.”