Fairland’s Salyer riding tall in the saddle after signing with Broncos

Published 3:25 am Monday, January 29, 2024

Fairland Lady Dragons standout softball pitcher Kaylee Salyer signed a national letter-of-intent on Friday with the Western Michigan Broncos. Attending the signing ceremony were: seated from left to right, mother Ashley, Kaylee, father Jason and brother Kyle. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photos/For The Ironton Tribune)

By Jim Walker


PROCTORVILLE — There was a time when Kaylee Salyer was scared of softball. Now, she strikes fear into opposing batters.

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By facing her fears, the Fairland Lady Dragons senior pitcher not only strikes fear in batters but strikes them out. And her ability to strike out batters has earned her a scholarship to play for the Western Michigan Broncos of the Mid-American Conference.

Salyer has played other sports. She played basketball most of her life until her junior year because softball was beginning to take extra time. She also played soccer, volleyball, golfed and ran cross country. But when it came to softball, Salyer needed the encouragement of her father Jason before she decided to try the sport.

Western Michigan recruit Kaylee Salyer of Fairland. (Tim Gearhart Sports Photos/For The Ironton Tribune)

“I was always really scared to play. It was kind of scary and I had grown up just playing basketball. My dad finally convinced me to play and I just fell in love with it and I just happened to be good at it so I kept working at it and here I am,” said Salyer with a grin.

Salyer has become very good at the sport. She racked up her 500th career strikeout last season and she continues to work at her craft.

“I love learning about pitching and I’d love to be a pitching coach in college,” said Salyer ,who credits a lot of her success to her Fairland coach Nikki Hayes.

“She’s taught me most of my life,” said Salyer. “(Hayes) has been the main one. My dad would look up YouTube videos and it just transformed and I watched college games all the time. I’ve always had great coaches and people to push me.”

Salyer had a long list of more than 20 colleges reaching out to her that included Dayton, Jacksonville, Marshall as well as Division 2 powers Carson Newman and the University of Indianapolis.

“Western is in the MAC (Mid-American Conference) and I have a lot of (travel team) teammates and  friends in the MAC, so it’ll be like a reunion,” said Salyer. “They have a big campus and lots of students which I’ve always wanted a big school. I love the campus and I love the coaches. It just fits perfectly.”

While Salyer is proud of reaching the 500 strikeout plateau, she said he is looking forward to her final prep season.

“This year, I hope to get my 100th hit and I hope to do that pretty early and maybe break some school records, so I’m looking forward to that,” the hard-throwing right-hander said.

“I’m hoping we can win the OVC again, and to go farther in the tournament. Last year was big beating Ironton who has always been a top team. Portsmouth has always been pretty good. So, having those victories is really important as a team. As a player you want to be in those situations and win those games.”

The recruiting process was long and stressful and Salyer is relieved it is behind her and she is glad that head coach Marlee Wilson and pitching coach Morgan Fleetwood are in her future.

“I was very stressed out. It’s a big relief. I’m glad that I waited. I could have committed last year, but I’m glad I waited to find this opportunity. I was glad I found Fleetwood and Wilson. They were looking for a player like me and I was looking for coaches like them. So, it worked out perfectly,” said Salyer.

“They’re a really competitive program. I’d like to win the MAC, but as long as we’re winning and having fun, I look forward to being there.”

Salyer said she is ready to play at the next level but she has no expectations about playing time.

“I’ve talked to Fleetwood. I know I’ll come in and be rotating in the pitching but you always have to work to find your spot. I’m not going to go in there and start for sure. I have to work my way through,” said Salyer.

“I’m excited. I know I’ll have to go in there and put in a lot of work, bulk up and get my spin and speed up. I’m excited to take on the adventure and the challenge. I’ve played against girls from all over the country. I’ve been to Colorado and Kansas and played in top national tournaments, so I think I’m for sure to handle the challenge.”

Salyer said the Broncos Empowerment program that helps with financial assistance was a selling point but the biggest factor was its curriculum.

Salyer plans to major in exercise science with a minor in coaching which she said was really interesting to her and one of the few schools that offers this program..

“That’s really cool at Western because most colleges don’t have that  minor, so for Western to have a coaching minor which I plan to do in the future is really exciting,” Salyer said.