I don't want to talk about it...I don't even want to think about it really, but I know it will probably make me feel better so here it goes...softball season is over. And for the first time, looking forward to next season isn't an option for us or six other amazing young ladies. Getting put out at Regionals isn't what any of us wanted or expected. I can't tell you why it happened. I wish I knew, but so often I don't have the answers to questions like that. What I do know, however, is that I could not be more proud to be called a Kinston Bulldog. I would take being a fan of this team over whatever team wins the state championship. This year has been one filled with adversity, questions, and trying times, but the way this group of girls has fought through that and banded together to attempt to achieve a common goal has made me so thankful to be associated with them. For the Senior class, it is heart-breaking to end your career on a sour note, but I encourage you to remember all the fun times and awesome memories we have since your 7th grade year, which was my Senior year. Girls, that is the year that we put Kinston Softball on the map! We surprised everyone by beating Ariton on their home turf, then beating JU Blacksher in Kinston and making our first ever trip to Montgomery. You cannot begin to understand how much it meant to me that y'all did not quit on me after we got a disappointing second place trophy at the area tournament.
Be forever grateful that you had the opportunity to win a state championship ring. There aren't many people who can say that! I'd like to take a second to say something about each one of the Seniors, who will be greatly missed next year.
- Tiffany Wingard #16-Tiff, you moved here after I graduated to join this team so I never really got the chance to know you that well. You have been moved ALL over the field, from SS to third to catcher to left field, but you never complained. Your hitting improved leaps and bounds from last year to this year, and I know you worked hard on it in the off-season. You are a sweet girl, Tiff. Never lose your team player attitude!
- Amanda Crohn #2-Amanda, you also moved to Kinston after I graduated, but my family has grown to love you! You are such a good-hearted, sweet person. I remember when you first moved here and you were so intimidated by Ronnie and you just cried and cried and cried when he hurt your feelings :( But your skin thinkened and you have grown into an amazing softball player and I know you are gonna do great things in college. You are FULL OUT, WIDE OPEN all the time. I love that about you.
- Tasha Jones #10-Tasha, you were a huge part of the success of my Senior year. You and I ruled the right side of the field over there. :) My mom and your mom are two of the loudest, craziest fans anyone from the other teams have ever seen with those megaphones and shakers. I will never forget in the state championship game against Pleasant Home I was sitting with Mr. Coale. We were down and you had a base hit to right field to score two runs. I thought Mr. Coale was going to tackle me. I just remember him screaming "It's DOWN. It's DOWN!" You have been a huge part of this program ever since your 7th grade year, and it's going to be very weird with you not being there next year.
- Amber Jacobs #9-AJ, I'm so glad you decided to come back and play your Senior year. You did an awesome job in center field and I'm glad you finally got to get that homerun! You were also a member of the team when I played, and you have come such a long way since then. My favorite memory of your career is you catching that very last out against Pleasant Home in the championship game. The look on your face was shock and excitement. You slammed that ball into the ground and started jumping up and down. I will never forget that moment as long as I live!
- Whitney Hercus #00-Whit, girl one day I hope you learn to run with both arms! HaHa, but seriously Whitney, you are one of the sweetest girls I know. You have the best heart, and we could always count on you to be there for Bethany, whether it was her nurse or her counselor in the dugout. You came through for us so many times when you were called on to hit in clutch situations! Your mom is right in there with my mom and Tina with those shakers and megaphones. It won't be the same next year and I know you and I have talked about that already. You have what it takes to succeed in life Whitney. Never settle for anything less than you deserve and keep your positive, cheerful attitude. It puts a smile on people's faces, and that is a hard thing to come by these days.
- Erin Shaw #4-Ewin, my Dad and I were talking at the Elba tournament about how huge of a part you had played in the success of our softball program. You and Beth have come a long way from the old Liberty Belles days! I know that is only because of hard work and dedication. You are the kind of person who never goes at anything unless it's with your whole heart, and that is such a great quality to possess. I've already told you how much we appreciate the kind of friend you are to Bethany, but I don't know why we would ever doubt it for a second. I mean, you were wanting to bring her Kleenex to school in Kindergarten when she cried everyday. We should have known from that point that we could always count on you. I know that this is not the kind of season you and Beth had hoped for. As I said, I can't tell you why it had to turn out like this. Just know that the kind of person you are will be with you forever, while softball season had to end at some point. And the kind of person you are is going to take you anywhere you want to go in life! I know I will be seeing a lot of you since you and Beffy will be living together in college, so you won't be rid of me anytime soon. I love you, Erin!
- Bethany Holley #3-Here's where it gets hard. Beth, I first and foremost want you to know that playing softball with you my Senior year is what brought us to be as close as we are today. It moved us from that fussy sibling rivalry stage to the I would do anything for you stage. If that were the only benefit I had ever gotten from Kinston Softball, it would be enough. I know that softball being over is on a totally different level for you than it was for me as a senior, and I loved softball. Beth, the number of hours you have put into softball are COUNTLESS. I don't think people really understand the sacrifices you have made to get better, for yourself and for your team. Anyone who has anything bad to say about you, your work ethic, or your team-player attitude should be ashamed of themselves. For people to question your motives, to think that for one second you are a selfish person, it makes me furious. We will never fully understand the things that have happened to you throughout your career, Beth. Tearing your ACL, the way this season has gone, losing to Waterloo that year in the semi-finals...I won't lie, sometimes I have questioned God's motives behind all those things. I know I shouldn't and that all things happen for a reason but sometimes I can't help it. But memories of your softball career, all the way back from the Enteprise Rec League days, are some of our families best memories. We have made so many great friends through your travel ball days--The Phillips (even if they ARE from Ariton), the Byrds (even if they ARE from Pleasant Home)...just kidding guys...The Rowlands...Ronnie and Dawn...the Smartts...Uncle Sammy...the list goes on and on. All those people will be our life-long friends, and those people know the kind of person you are and they have so much respect for you. I will never forget traveling all over the southeast to watch you play...from the days you were so little that all you could really do was bunt...to watching you ripping balls to the fence in high school. I have watched you go from being scared senseless pitching against Vestavia Hills in the 7th grade, to being a strong, confident athlete who knew she could pitch against any team in this state. You have received some much deserved awards like All-State, State All-Tournament Team, the list goes on and on. The picture we have of you kissing that state championship trophy says it all. I have seen you do some very selfless things over your career, letting others be in the spotlight, taking yourself out of games when you knew your pitching wasn't going to cut it anymore. I know you ARE a team player Bethany, and anyone who has played with you could not argue with that. It's going to be a huge void in all of our lives not having that #3 on the field next season...it's hard to imagine Bethany Holley not playing softball. Bethany Holley IS softball. But Bethany Holley is a lot of other things too. You remember how I told you that after softball was over, all your other great qualities would still be hanging around? I was right: You are still beautiful, you are still intelligent (most of the time), you still have a great personality, you are still a generous, loving person, and you are still my hero. I love you more than life itself Bethany. You are my sister, and you are my best friend.