GONZALES — A number of high school athletes chase the dream of a college scholarship that doesn’t always come true. Scholarship offers come with ease for others.
East Ascension High two-sport athlete Carmisha Payton was somewhere in the middle until she made a bold decision.
Instead of vowing to play on, the Spartans star third baseman decided last summer to move on. Payton is set to call it a career after her senior year.
“I’ve been playing softball my whole life,” Payton said. “I haven’t had an opportunity to socialize with my friends, have a job or even focus more on my grades like some people do.
“Softball is a sport I’ve played since I was six. That’s 12 years. I did seriously think about going to college to play softball. I thought what’s next after that? So I decided to go to college and concentrate on classes.”
There’s no Derek Jeter-like farewell tour for a high school senior.
But Payton has made the most of her final season by batting .485 with five home runs, eight doubles and 49 RBIs for the 10th-seeded Spartans (23-9), who face No. 2 Ouachita (23-4) in the quarterfinals at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Softball tournament. Game time is 4 p.m. Friday at Sulphur’s Frasch Park.
“My dad was especially disappointed,” Payton said. “All we talk about is softball. But both my parents said that if you don’t want to play softball after this, just go have fun your senior year and I think I have.
“This team is pretty young. I’ve tried to tell them about the state tournament because I’ve been there. Some of them are nervous, but I’ve told them let loose and play as hard as you can. That’s what I plan to do.”
Payton carries a 3.4 grade-point average and is already taking college-level course for Southeastern Louisiana University, where she plans to enroll in the fall. Payton said she would eventually like to be an athletic trainer or a physical therapist.
EAHS coach Amy Pitre said Payton’s decision caught her by surprise at first. As a four-year starter who played summer softball with the Louisiana Patriots, Payton was one of those players who appeared destined for college softball. Payton also was a standout for the Spartans volleyball team that advanced to the LHSAA’s State Volleyball tournament last fall.
“What I told her (Payton) is that you don’t want to regret not doing it later on,” Pitre said. “But I also told her you don’t want to go play in college unless your really want to because it’s more like a job. She was never back and forth about it. Her mind was pretty much made up from the time she told me.”
Pitre also points out Payton’s early decision not to play college softball hasn’t stopped colleges from inquiring. Payton hit a home run in the Spartans’ regional win over C.E. Byrd in Shreveport last Friday. After that game Payton was approached by a college coach who told her that she not only had a scholarship offer, but that she’d be a four-year college starter.
She politely declined. The same coach has contacted Pitre again, looking to make a final push for Payton.
However, Payton has another late push in mind. The Spartans are one of four Baton Rouge area teams in the 5A quarterfinals. Along with EAHS’ other seniors, designated player Anne Marie Arceneaux and center fielder Maria Speligene, Payton is looking to keep her team focused on the state tourney.
“Sometimes as a coach there’s only so much you can say,” Pitre said. “Carmisha has a way of explaining things, including what it’s like to be in the state tournament.
“Now I do joke with her all the time. Today, she had the wrong practice shirt on when she first got here and it reminded me of her freshman year and I told her that. But she understands what it takes to be successful and knows what we need to do as a team.”
When asked about her goal for this weekend and the LHSAA State tournament, Payton said.
“To win a state championship,” Payton said. “That would be the perfect ending.”