Barnegat shortstop Butler's versatility, leadership are key assets for Bengals

Barnegat shortstop Butler's versatility, leadership are key assets for Bengals

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Barnegat shortstop Butler's versatility, leadership are key assets for Bengals

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For most coaches in the Shore Conference, the name Kerry Butler probably doesn’t mean much.

But those in the Class B South division are fully aware of the unassuming shortstop from Barnegat, mainly because she’s been a huge issue to both their offenses and defenses during the past few years.

“Kerry’s a versatile player who can beat you with her stick in so many ways,” said Pinelands coach Keith Lowe, whose Wildcats have been perched near the top of B South the past two seasons. “Due to her speed, bat control and sneaky power, coaches like myself have had a tough time adjusting our defenses. She’s been one of the toughest outs in our division these past four seasons. And she’s a very solid fielder as well.”

Some of the evidence of how tough it is to get Butler out is indicated in the numbers she posts, or, in one category, doesn’t post.

Last season, Butler struck out just once in 94 plate appearances while batting an even .500 (43-for-86). Through 10 games a week ago, Butler was batting .625 (20-for-38) with four doubles and three triples, even though, interestingly, she’s managed to strike out twice.

“A few weeks ago, I asked a friend of mine to come to games and for the two games he showed up I struck out,” Butler said with a laugh. “After that second strikeout, I banned him from coming to games.”

Butler’s been a starter for the Bengals since her freshman season, following her older sister, Stephanie, who’s now playing at Villanova, through the ranks and now captains the squad.

“Baseball and softball have always been a part of our family,” she said. “I enjoy the game a lot because of its competitiveness. And I like that you do fail in this game, and you have to pick yourself up after failing and keep trying to improve. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons through softball and mostly because of that failure aspect.”

But with failure for Butler being limited at the high school level, Barnegat coach Laura Miller has had a boon of sorts by having the two Butler sisters come through her program, and particularly with Kerry, since she’s more of an outgoing, natural leader type.

“Kerry has a more outgoing personality that allows her to lead the other kids and bring the team together,” Miller said. “She’s very positive and she doesn’t get down on herself or her teammates. And she knows the game so well and has qualities that aren’t coachable. She’s a role model and a great leader.”

That combination of leadership character, smooth fielding skills and an eye for the strike zone that’s one of the best in the Shore Conference made Butler an attractive asset for several Division-I programs. She chose East Carolina University, which will make the switch from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference next season.

“Softball’s big down there in Greenville (N.C.),” she said, “It’s a true college town and the community supports all of the university’s athletics. ECU has brand-new facilities that are well-maintained and beautiful. There’s a lot to do there, so I’ll always be busy. But from the minute I stepped onto the campus, it felt like my next home. The weather’s perfect, the people are nice and the coaches are really down to earth.”

Under head coach Beth Keylon-Randolph, the Pirates are 25-18 this season. And while Butler will look to play the shortstop position to which she’s become most accustomed, she’s open to moving anywhere necessary to gain playing time immediately.

“I’ll definitely have to work harder and I know it’s not going to be easy at the Division-I level, but I feel like I’ve been prepared well enough,” said Butler, who plans to major in nutrition. “I’m open to anything once I get there. The coaches have mentioned the possibility of playing first base, and that’s fine. As long as I’m playing and having fun, I’ll play wherever they need me.”

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