PORT HOPE — When Kayla Gust was a fifth grader, she had a dream of pitching at the varsity level.
Once she got to the varsity level, that dream shifted to pitching in college.
The Port Hope senior made her dream a reality as she recently inked with Northwood University.
“I’ve been there for basketball camp a few times, and I just felt like I was at home,” Gust said. “I went for another visit with the softball coach, and I felt like I fit in already.”
Gust has gained more headlines for her basketball skills, leading the Bluestars to league and district championships last season.
But she developed an affection for softball after playing during the summer.
“I got into a summer league, and I just found my love there,” she said. “I just felt more comfortable playing there.
“I’ve just grown every year with the help of my coaches.”
Gust gave a lot of credit to her first coach, Linda Johnson.
Johnson gave the young fifth grader an opportunity to be with the team — and Gust ran with it.
“When Kayla was in fifth grade, she asked me to be involved in softball,” Johnson said. “She wanted to participate in every drill possible. I had juniors and seniors who wouldn’t want to participate in a drill. Kayla had no problem as a fifth grader.
“For Port Hope, she’s a one in a million. She’s one that comes around just so often.”
Gust is very fond of those days as a bat girl.
“I give a lot of credit to Mrs. Johnson. I started in fifth grade as the bat girl,” she said. “I practiced with the varsity team, and progressed along with them.”
With basketball season right around the corner, Gust wanted to get the signing out of the way early.
“It’s nice to have the pressure out of the way to know I have signed somewhere,” she said.
Gust is a self-driven athlete, and she isn’t about to take a break just because she knows what college she will be attending.
If anything, it has motivated her even more.
“When she made this decision, her dedication, hard work and desire have been second to none — that’s what’s made her what she is today,” Johnson said.
Added Gust: “Someone told me now that I’ve signed not to relax or anything... So I plan on working hard in both basketball and softball.”
There were other schools she considered, including Grand Valley State, but Gust wanted to stay close to the area so her parents could easily attend her games. Her parents, Paula and Michael, have never missed their daughter play.
“They haven’t missed a game, so I didn’t want them to feel left out,” Gust said. “We went (to Grand Valley), but things just didn’t seem right there.”
Port Hope just missed out on winning a softball league title in 2009.
Johnson is hoping to take the next step with Gust in her final season.
“Kayla’s a great pitcher, there’s not too many teams that would not want her,” she said. “She always tries to make the people around her better.
“For Kayla finishing her senior year, it would be awesome to win a league championship.”