Hedrick, Horne claim All-Metro top honors from fall with Lady Hounds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2005

FERRIDAY, La. &045; Already the only returning senior on the roster, Erin Hedrick was well aware of her role among a team of mainly sophomores and freshmen.

Yet her role was so much more than that.

When the Huntington Lady Hounds started their fast-pitch season back in the fall, Hedrick’s habit of toeing the rubber and concentrating on how to get the batter out just didn’t work any more. Suddenly those little ground balls or pop-ups that had been sure outs for three years weren’t.

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They were falling, as was Hedrick’s confidence level in her team.

Things, however, slowly started to change. The fly balls didn’t fall. The routine outs turned into outs. Even the hard ground balls started to appear routine.

So Hedrick went back to what she’s done for four years at Huntington and most of her life with softball &045; dominate on the mound. Her role with leading her club to a South State championship in the fall earned her 2004-05 All-Metro Player of the Year and coach Rut Horne Coach of the Year.

&uot;This team did improve a lot,&uot; Hedrick said. &uot;They basically got better, and I got more comfortable with everybody playing behind me. We had major improvements during the season. The girls came around.&uot;

Once the Lady Hounds finally started to click and improve defensively, Hedrick was able to really rock and fire. She finished the season with 190 strikeouts to just 34 walks in her 32 games pitched, including a perfect game against Wayne Academy.

Even though pitchers get the glory in a perfect game, it couldn’t be done without a solid supporting cast on defense.

&uot;Erin was a real leader,&uot; Horne said. &uot;We had seven players who had never played fast-pitch before and seven who had never bunted before. Erin stayed out there and showed them how she bunts. When you have that kind of senior leadership &045; I hope we can have that kind next year.&uot;

For the big right-hander, settling into that role was just a transition from her normal duties of throwing BBs by batters. She had mastered her pitches on the mound &045; curve, drop and riseball &045; but had to sharpen her skills as a communicator and leader.

She recalled the lessons she learned as a freshmen while playing for then-coach Michael McAnally and how the little things mean so much.

Like getting a bunt down.

&uot;He always demanded so much from us &045; getting practice started and getting here on time,&uot; Hedrick said. &uot;He wasn’t going to tell you. You know what you’re supposed to do &045; do it. He always demanded that kind of thing. I tried to get the most out of it.

&uot;Bunting was the big one. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you a ball club. Coach McAnally taught us a game where if you didn’t get the bunt down you had to sprint (to second) and sprint back. I knew how to bunt when I was in the seventh grade.

&uot;And catching balls in the outfield &045; that’s something we worked on a lot. By the end of the season, all of that had changed.&uot;

The bunt may have been the secret weapon down the stretch as the Lady Hounds closed out the South State title. Hedrick was by far the best hitter on the team with a .452 average, and the rest of the lineup struggled to get hits consistently or with runners on base.

So once the Lady Hounds added the bunt to their arsenal &045; such a vital role in fast-pitch softball &045; the offense started to give Hedrick some room to work.

&uot;That was one good thing about this team this year &045; they did learn how to bunt,&uot; Horne said. &uot;They’re all fast. We had super team speed. (Assistant) Coach Robert (Ogden) works his butt off out there. But from Day 1, Erin went out there and she was a need &045; ‘If we are going to do anything this year, we’ll have to learn how to bunt and run bases.’ She was a good leader.&uot;

But truth be told, Hedrick had to thank the defense behind her since they have the biggest job of anyone on defense. The way she sees it, the person on the mound isn’t expected to strike out everybody, so they have it easy.

She sometimes stepped off the mound and went to second base for freshman pitcher Brandy Butts. That, Hedrick will tell you, is tough.

&uot;When other people pitch, I hate to be behind them,&uot; she said. &uot;I know how it feels. I feel it’s more pressure there. I don’t want to mess up for whoever is on the mound. I feel more pressure in the field.&uot;

That’s why those perfect games mean, she said, should mean so much to those on defense &045; Arnold at first, Butts at second, eighth-grader Julie Moak at short, freshman Leslie Wagoner at third and speedy Sarah Loomis in center.

&uot;It takes a lot when you don’t get all strikeouts,&uot; Horne said. &uot;You’ve got to hope the defense behind you plays well and you don’t walk anybody. Julie Moak played well all year. She always charges the ball, and that makes a big difference. Brandy did a real good job. And I’ve got some kids who didn’t play last year who will play next year &045; some good athletes.&uot;

Hedrick walked away in October knowing she helped make that little team better, and the Lady Hounds may compete for South State again in the fall. Her plans are to attend Louisiana Tech in the fall as a student on a full academic scholarship, unless someone or something comes along to change it.

&uot;I’m going to miss everything,&uot; Hedrick said. &uot;Coming out here stretching, coming to practice. It gives me a feeling I can’t describe. It’s a feeling Brandy will have. She’s going to be that good. It’s a feeling like no other feeling I get.&uot;