FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University softball coach Stacey Vallee has announced the signing of players during the recent early signing period: corner infielder and right-handed pitcher Taylor Douglass of Lake City, Fla., corner infielder Lauren Dreitlein of Knoxville, Tenn., right-handed pitcher Danielle Payne of Clarks Hill, S.C., outfielder Christina Smoley of Ocoee, Fla., and middle infielder Cat Zalud of Sarasota, Fla.
Payne is a transfer from Aiken Tech and will have two years of eligibility at FMU, while the other four players are all high school seniors.
Douglass, 5-10, attends Columbia High School, where she will play under the direction of head coach Jimmy Williams this spring.
She previously attended Fort White High School, where in 2011 she batted .404 with two home runs, 19 runs batted in, 18 runs scored, and a .467 on-base percentage. On the pitching mound, she registered a 7-3 record with a 1.22 earned run average. She was a first-team All-Area selection.
She also earned All-Area recognition in 2007, 2008, and 2009, and was an All-State selection in 2010. She is a National Honor Society club member and a member of the BETA Club, and was named the Columbia County Youth Volunteer of the Year for 2009.
“Taylor will bring to campus a big bat, in terms of power,” Vallee said. “She is one of those players who is not afraid of ‘getting dirty.’ She will see some time on the pitching mound, and off the field is a good student.”
Dreitlein, 5-5, is a senior at Berean Christian School. Her school does not have a softball team so she has played with Gibbs High School and coach Carol Mitchell for the past two seasons. This past spring, she hit .415 with five doubles, six home runs, and 35 RBIs. A two-time All-District pick, she was named to the 2011 All-District Tournament Team, a year after earning tournament MVP honors. She owns a prep career average above .400 with 11 round-trippers.
She also played with the Tennessee White Lightning squad and batted .400 with 19 RBIs this past summer.
“Lauren is also a power hitter. She is very aggressive both at the plate and in the field, and has the opportunity to develop into a team leader at FMU.”
Payne, 5-9, is entering her second season at Aiken Tech, where she plays for coaches Mitch Smith and Jessica Strickland. This past spring, she posted a 17-18 pitching mark with a 2.01 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 230.1 innings pitched. She earned team most valuable player honors and was an honorable mention All-Region X selection.
Payne is a former All-State and All-Region performer at Fox Creek High School. She was chosen to participate in the North-South All-Star Game.
“Danielle is an in-state product who confuses batters with a variety of pitches. She throws relatively hard and, with her collegiate experience, should be able to jump on the mound and contribute immediately.”
Smoley, 5-4, attends Ocoee High School, where she plays for coaches Shannon Johnson, Sue North, and Mike Gale. As a junior, she batted .494 and earned first-team All-Metro Conference West honors for the second consecutive year. She was also an honorable mention selection to the 2011 BHSN All-Central Florida Softball Team.
“Christina is a slap hitter, but she can also hit away. She is very speedy, is an aggressive defender in the outfield, and with her offensive skills will likely bat first, second, or ninth in our line-up.”
Zalud, 5-1, is a senior at Sarasota High School, where she plays for coaches Kelly Risley and Missi Smith. As a junior, she was named her squad’s offensive player of the year and garnered Sarasota Herald Tribune All-Area recognition.
At SHS, Zalud played alongside Auburn signee Jade Rhodes, daughter of St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Author Rhodes.
“Cat possesses a consistent bat, speed, and good fielding range in the middle infield. She may be our replacement for senior Ashley Jaramillo at second base.
“All five of these young ladies could step in and play right away, and the best thing is that they are excited to be coming to Francis Marion.”
FMU, which has earned NCAA Division II National Tournament invitations two of the past four years, ended its 2011 season with a 24-21-1 record. The 2012 edition of the Patriots will open their season on the first weekend of February.