"Since the day they started playing softball at USCB, that's been her dream," Thomas Heyward Academy softball coach Bob Layman said.
About two weeks ago, Rebels senior Taylor Ernestine took another step toward making that dream come true, signing to play softball at USC Beaufort.
Ernestine considered other schools that weren't too far away, like Francis Marion and Newberry, but they just weren't where she wanted to go.
"I've always wanted to stick around," Ernestine said. "I love the campus, I've met the coach and I've just always wanted to go there. I didn't want to go far away from home."
Ernestine will join former Thomas Heyward star and teammate Ashlie Layman, a freshman this year for the Sand Sharks, who went 37-11, 12-5 in the Sun Conference, in their 2012 debut season.
"The kids around here like the fact that the campus is fabulous and the dorms are as nice as can be," Bob Layman said. "The coaches are great, and they're putting together a heck of a program. They're doing it the right way."
The 5-foot-2 Ernestine has excelled as a first baseman but expects to play second base for the Sand Sharks.
She's a little "vertically challenged," Bob Layman said.
Layman said the Sand Sharks are getting a "possession hitter," someone who hit better than .400 during her junior season, can always be counted on for a solid base hit when it's needed and possesses a great glove."
"We're really just working on her quickness. The speed of the game is always faster at the next level," Bob Layman said. "I'd like to see her get a little more power in her stick, but she runs well and she's a great two hitter. She understands what a sacrifice is and what you're trying to accomplish."
As if USCB didn't already have enough of an inside track, Ernestine likes Sand Sharks head coach Ty Reitkovich.
"He's easy going, easy to talk to. I don't get nervous talking to him," she said. "He and his assistant coach (Laura Heberling) are actually interested in how you're doing, and they keep in touch. We'll get emails or texts at tournaments, asking how we did, telling us good luck."
As her final high school season approaches next spring, Ernestine, who will major at USCB in early childhood development, says she's focused on the little things and not necessarily on the field.
"I want to keep my grades up and keep improving them," she said. "Grades are really important to me."
Name: Taylor Ernestine
High school: Thomas Heyward Academy
High school coach: Bob Layman
College: USC Beaufort
Probable major: Early childhood development
About USC Beaufort: An NAIA school located in Beaufort County, the Sand Sharks softball program is in its second year.
Why USC Beaufort? It was close to home, had her major (Early childhood development) and she loves the campus and coaches.
Other schools considered: Francis Marion, Newberry
Other high school sports played: Volleyball, basketball
Accolades: Named to the 2012 IP/BG All-Area softball team and the 2012 SCISAA1-A/2-A South softball team. Member of 2011 SCISAA Class 2-A state champions. Member of two-time USSSA S.C. State Champions, the Badkatz. Member of the Thomas Heyward Academy honor roll and the Beta Club.