South Carolina freshman infielder Karley Shelton is starting her collegiate career a year early after finishing high school in three years, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that the 17-year-old excels on the diamond. Shelton’s mother, father, sister, and brother all played or are playing collegiate baseball or softball.
“Ever since I was little, we were always going outside, and we all played many sports,” said Shelton, who is studying sport and entertainment management. “We swam, played basketball, tennis, softball, and baseball. We’re a very competitive family. Anything is a competition. We can be sitting around the house, and something comes up and then we’ll all say, ‘I’ll do it first!’
“We’re always competitive no matter what’s going on. There was never any pressure though. We all just know we love the sport.”
Her father, Eric, and mother, Bonnie, were baseball and softball pitchers, respectively, at Charlotte, while her brother, Colby, is a sophomore on the baseball team a Florida after playing his freshman year at Alabama, and her sister, Kiley, is a freshman softball student-athlete at Colgate. The competition within the family isn’t just between the kids.
“My dad is very competitive,” said Shelton. “He’ll throw us batting practice, and we’ll play a game where it’s like a war to see who wins. If I hit a barrel, I win. If he gets me out, he wins. It’s the best out of five.”
“I love competing every day. It pushes me to be a better person.”
Shelton graduated from nearby Lexington High School in just three years and chose to start her collegiate career a year early.
“I had been training with my brother, who is three years older, since my freshman year (of high school), so I thought I was ready,” said Shelton, who is sometimes simply called ‘Karl’ by her teammates. “Plus, I’m only thirty minutes from home. We thought I was ready because of all the training that I’ve done. When I was younger and playing travel ball, I always played up because of my sister. When I was 14, I started my first year of playing 18U.
“Even though I’m only 17, the team here welcomed me with open arms. They’re the best teammates, ever! They treat me the same way. It was intimidating the first day, but after that I realized that we’re all here doing the same thing every day. I’m one of them.”
Although she relies on her training, like many ball players, Shelton has a few superstitions.
“Before I hit, I have to spit on my batting gloves and rub them together,” said Shelton with a laugh and noted that she has to dress in a certain order as well before each game. “I also have to put my hair in a high ponytail, no matter what!”
When her playing days are over, Shelton hopes to train athletes.
“I want to own my own facility and help kids get to the next level by weight training and lessons,” said Shelton, who has developed a tremendous work ethic in her own training and was nicknamed ‘Juice’ by family members. “I guess they called me ‘Juice’ because I’m powerful. I love to work out and insanely overdo it.”
As she prepares to navigate her first year playing in the SEC, Shelton wears number 33, the same number her mom wore, and she is excited about the opportunity to carry on what is now a family tradition of playing on the diamond in college.
“My goal this year is to be a good teammate,” Shelton said. “I want to work my hardest so it will benefit others as well as myself. What I love about softball is the competition. I love competing every day. It pushes me to be a better person.”