If you’re looking for a catcher with Attention Deficit Disorder who loves eating mountain oysters and occasionally forgets to shave effectively, Baylee Shephard should be at the head of your list.
The Evangel senior is a country-girl-come-to-town with just enough edge to make controlling two of the top pitchers in the area a breeze. But one of those pitchers, McKenzie Ashby, is a Shephard buddy who doesn’t mind telling tales on her friend.
“We were getting ready for our Queen presentation at the hairdressers when Baylee realized she hadn’t shaved her armpits all the way,” McKenzie said. “We didn’t have time to go home, so she just had them wax her armpits. Her mom told her not to cry because it would mess up her makeup, so I had to hold a tissue under her eyes.”
When Shephard, who signed with Northwestern State in the fall, isn’t getting properly primped, she smashes line drives into opposing teams’ outfields. She leads perennial powerhouse Evangel in hitting this season with a .500 average and a .691 slugging percentage.
“Baylee has been an incredible hitter — at least 100 points higher than last season — after we challenged her to be more consistent,” Evangel coach Sherilyn Mueller said. “She worked hard in the off-season and has accomplished a lot. She became our most consistent hitter.”
Shephard, a Blanchard-area resident, hopes to send the Lady Eagles (21-6) back to Sulphur for a fifth consecutive season on Friday, but Evangel will have to get past Catholic of New Iberia (16-11) in a 6 p.m. matchup on Broadacres Road. to get there. The teams met in mid-March in Alexandria with Evangel winning 7-4.
Apparently, Shephard will eat almost anything. At a crawfish boil for her father’s business, the cooks opted to fry about 20 pounds of mountain oysters. They were presented to Baylee as chicken nuggets, so she happily dug in. She had just finished cleaning her plate when her father delivered the news.
“They were not chicken nuggets,” she said with a smirk. “The bad thing is, not only did I eat them, I went back for seconds after I found out what they were because they were so good.”
Shephard began catching in the seventh grade when it was discovered she had ADD. Being behind the plate, controlling every pitch, helped her maintain control of the affliction.
“I stopped taking the medication, because it made me sick and made me drowsy,” Shephard said. “I feel like I don’t have it anymore, but I don’t know. As a player, I get so bored not being in every play, so I like being in on every pitch.”
She joined the Evangel program as a seventh grader but sat on the bench until her freshman campaign. She caught powerhouse pitcher Emily Rousseau that year and started developing techniques that made her Division I ready.
“It was tough for her at first, but she gradually became more confident in her ability,” Mueller said. “She learned to do things like block pitches and that different swings require different pitches. Her ability to settle pitchers and talk them out of jams, has really improved.”
The drive that landed her at NSU began with a setback when she was playing Little League as a 9-year-old. She wasn’t selected for the All-Star team, which didn’t sit well with the avid deer hunter, who doesn’t mind sitting a deer stand from dawn to dusk.
“That began to shape a self-motivated little monster determined to not be overlooked again,” said Allen Shephard, her father.
Shephard loves crawfish and has been known to go out on area waterways looking for bullfrogs, because their legs apparently help cut the flavor of mountain oysters.