Not even a devastating 190 mph tornado could stop
senior catcher Shelby Holley
from becoming the greatest home run hitter in the history of high school softball.
"We saw it go by our house," she told MaxPreps. "It didn't hit anybody on our team and it didn't hit the school. The power just went back on Thursday, but for some it's still not back on."
The Eagles lost a tournament, two regular-season games and seven school days.
Meanwhile, Holley was creating tornadoes of her own by hammering six home runs last week. Her first home run during a 9-1 victory over Sylvania (Ala.) was historic, because it broke the national career record as well as state and national one-season records.
When the week's smoke had cleared, she was the national record holder with 30 homers this year and 67 for her career, which is not yet over. Amazingly, the records she broke were held by another Pisgah slugger, Holly Currie, who belted 61 during her career (2000-03) and 24 in one season (shared with Erica Martinez of Fort Madison, Iowa).
"It was always my goal," the 6-foot slugger said of the national records. "People kept telling me, ‘You can do this.' Now that I've done it, it hasn't sunk in yet."
Now the pitching coach at Auburn-Montgomery, Currie told MaxPreps, "If anybody was going to break it, I wanted it to be her, because I am so close to her. I knew she was a phenomenal hitter and she always said she wanted to break my national records."
Their closeness stems from one year that Currie was an assistant coach at Pisgah and Holley was her catcher when she gave pitching lessons. Currie also gets a lot of credit for helping her protégé get through algebra.
Pisgah's Billy Duncan, who has won six Class 3A state titles, said, "As a coach you would hope to have one athlete in that category offensively. It's pretty amazing to have two."
Shelby actually was on track to greatness at the tender age of 10. Her mother, Amy Holley, recalled the many nights that her husband, Jeff, who had wrestled and played football, would take Shelby to their barn and practice pitching.
"She and her dad would fight like dogs," Amy said. "She got to where she wouldn't go out there without me (to mediate)."
Just before she turned 10, Shelby tried out for the North Alabama Rockets, who already had three pitchers more talented than her.
"She said, 'I can play catcher. I want to do something my daddy doesn't know anything about.' So, for her 10th birthday she got catching gear," Amy related.
Thus began the journey that caused the family to leave Guntersville, Ala., and move to Pisgah when Amy started eighth grade. Shelby had a plan – to break state and national home run records held by her idol, Holly Currie. She also wanted to have her uniform number retired, again just like Holly Currie.
Coach Duncan quickly told her that to get her number retired, she definitely would have to break her idol's records. Undaunted, she earned the varsity starting position at catcher and hit six home runs as an eighth grader. Those six, by the way, do not count toward her national record, but they do count as part of the Alabama record, which now stands at 73.
Starting her freshman year, Shelby took some teasing from her coach.
"Duncan had five state championship rings on his hand," Amy Holley said. "He would stick his hand in her face and say, ‘Just touch one, because that's the closest to one you'll ever get.' That year she got her ring."
Not needing any more motivation, Shelby dominated Class 3A as a freshman. She belted 15 home runs and batted a lofty .556. During the four games of the state tourney she was a phenomenal 15-for-18 at the plate, earning her MVP honors in the finals as well as the state's Class 3A Player of the Year.
She had another big year as a sophomore, but hit only four home runs as a junior due to elbow surgery.
This year she went into a mini slump after slamming her record-tying 24th home run. She had two games when she went hitless in seven trips to the plate.
"There was a little bit of pressure," Shelby admitted. "I felt I had to break the records. I was going up there trying to hit home runs and kept popping up."
She finally collected her record-breaker on a day that she was running a high fever. Ironically, both she and coach Duncan believe that dwelling on her sickness helped her relax at the plate and the rest is history. The next day her fever had reached 103.4 before she began getting well.
Shelby currently is batting .621 as the Eagles' leadoff hitter. She has collected 14 doubles, 36 walks and driven in 83 runs in 46 games. She has a .710 on-base percentage and has struck out just twice. Both strikeouts came back-to-back during a 4-2 loss to Springville (Ala.).
Duncan points out that his teenage star is much more than a great hitter. He noted, "She probably has gained as much respect behind the plate. She throws from her knees and has a quick arm. She has picked off 19 runners (school record) this year and made just two errors. She has molded herself into a leader."
In the classroom, Shelby carries a strong 3.9 GPA and is ranked No. 25 in her senior class. She will be playing next year for Jacksonville State University and plans to major in criminal justice.
Despite her home run records, Shelby still has to accomplish one more feat – according to her coach – to have her uniform number retired. She has to win the state championship. That quest will continue Friday when the Eagles (34-12) face Rogers (Ala.) in the Class 3A regional.
"I believe she'll be an impact player right off the bat," Duncan said of his star's college future. "My job is going to be a lot tougher next year."
* Alicia Pille
, a University of Kansas signee, struck out a career-high 33 batters as Royse City (Texas)
eked out a 1-0 victory over Corsicana (Texas) in a 16-inning marathon that lasted almost five hours. She had a perfect game for 9 1/3 innings. Later that same day she pitched a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts to beat Corsicana, 5-0, for her 21st consecutive victory.
* New Egypt (N.J.)
blanked Maple Shade (N.J.), 1-0, in nine innings as senior Emily Bausher
pitched a perfect game with 21 strikeouts.* Kristina Meza
struck out 16 and singled in the winning run to help Springfield (Ore.) outlast Marist (Eugene, Ore.), 4-3, in 13 innings. Nyree White
struck out 26 in a losing cause.
* Sophomore Danielle Duman
hit a two-run homer, struck out 15 and pitched her second no-hitter as Churchill (Eugene, Ore.) blanked Marshfield (Coos Bay, Ore.), 3-0.
* Backup pitcher Corinne Spadt
, a sophomore, pitched the first two no-hitters of her career as Liberty (Bethlehem, Pa.) defeated Allen (Allentown, Pa.), 9-1, and Pleasant Valley (Brodheadsville, Pa.), 3-0.Continue reading