Kiley Southall's running helped set the tone for Florida Atlantic's offense
Kiley Southall out of Wilmington, Illinois was a key member of the Conference USA champion Florida Atlantic University (FAU) women's softball squad despite starting just nine of the team's 60 games this year.
The 51-9 Owls set team records for most wins to start a season (12) and most consecutive wins (21), and it was Southall's adept base running that set the tone for an aggressive FAU offensive attack.
Southall was six for nine in stolen bases this year, and the senior finished 11 for 15 in stolen bases for her two-year FAU career for a sky-high success percentage of 73.3 percent. It was this aggression on the base paths that gave the Owls a reputation for imposing their will on opposing defenses.
"Kiley was officially an outfielder, but played most often as a pinch runner," Justin Johnson, the assistant athletic media relations director for FAU, told the Will County Gazette. "Toward the end of the year, she also platooned in the designated player spot. But the coaching staff realized how fast she is, which is why she was used as a pinch runner. The offensive philosophy this year was to always put pressure on the defense, and stealing bases is a huge part of that."
Southall wasn't always an Owl, however. After a successful four-year high school softball career that saw her letter in all four seasons, she made her way to St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois, but transferred to FAU after her sophomore season.
She jumped right into the fray for the start of her junior year, and it was this immediate acclimation combined with the accepting demeanor of her teammates that made for an easy transition for Southall.
"I can tell you this first-hand," Johnson said. "The thing that I've heard her talk about, her parents have talked about and the coaching staff have all mentioned is how quickly she was accepted as a member of the team. A lot of places, transfer students are kind of looked at sideways, and that hasn't been the case with Kiley at all."
The team's attitude of acceptance was able to help coax the most out of Southall in a never-easy transfer situation. It was this experience that helped make her such a key component of this year's record-setting Owls team.
"She showed up and was immediately accepted as one of the team," Johnson said. "That's something that she has gushed about and was extremely appreciative of, that the girls on the team and the coaching staff were all so welcoming, inviting and embracing of her as a transfer student."
Southall echoed those exact sentiments in the team's 2016 Senior Sendoff video, saying, "Everyone has been so helpful, and they set the bar so high for me that I've been able to accomplish my wildest dreams."
She specifically credited both her teammates and her coaches for making her transition and the season as a whole a success.
"(The players) are my best friends," she said. "We all hang out together. We're all completely different, but we're so close. The coaches are great. They're always there for us, no matter what. Any circumstance."
That close-knit, family atmosphere combined with a whole lot of winning made Southall's season and her FAU career a memorable one.
"(Transfering) was the the best decision I made in my entire life thus far," she said.
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