Sometimes the dream destination doesn’t turn out to be the perfect fit.
Trace Willhoite of Scott County High School gave an early commitment — during his sophomore season, actually — to the University of Louisville baseball program.
There was much to love about an opportunity to graduate from one flock of Cardinals to another. Louisville has a substantial history both for producing major league talent and contending for a spot in the College World Series every year.
In such a deep talent pool, though, there is the reality that even an all-state caliber high school athlete may have to wait two of three years for a chance to consistently see the field.
That speed bump, according to family members, is one reason Willhoite has elected to leave Louisville and sign with junior college power Northwest Florida State College of Destin, Florida.
Willhoite, who played both corner infield positions as well as right field and pitcher at SC, expects to be an everyday player for Northwest Florida, which is ranked No. 1 nationally heading into the 2020 season.
In addition to signing his national letter of intent with NWF, Willhoite also has verbally comitted to Eastern Kentucky University, where he will be eligible to play immediately as a sophomore in 2021.
There, Willhoite will be reunited with former SC teammate Jordan Fox and several other athletes with whom he played summer ball.
Willhoite is on track to receive his associate’s degree from NWF in the spring.
He joins former SC teammates Cade McKee, Sam Sutton and Trent Fox in pursuing the junior college route.
When he arrives at EKU, Willhoite will rejoin Jordan Fox and Kyle Harbison (Indiana State) as NCAA Division I players from Scott County’s Class of 2019.
As a senior, Willhoite batted .460 over an even 100 at-bats during the regular season. Willhoite weaved an on-base percentage of .556 in 126 plate appearance and a slugging percentage of .770.
Of his 46 hits, a team-high five were home runs, including a memorable walk-off blast against Corbin on the Cards’ senior night.
He also belted 14 doubles and a triple while leading Scott County with 38 RBI. Willhoite scored 42 runs, drew more walks (17) than strikeouts (10), and was hit by a pitch on seven occasions. His seven stolen bases tied for third on the club.
On the mound, Willhoite kept his earned run average under one for much of the season before winding up at 1.48.
Willhoite was 4-2 with one save. He needed only 33 innings to amass 46 strikeouts.
He was named both one of the top first basemen and leading players in the entire state for his graduating class by Perfect Game, a nationally known recruiting service, throughout his career.
Willhoite attended Perfect Game national scouting combines in Florida and California after his sophomore and junior seasons, respectively.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.