April 16, 2013 10:58:50 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Kasey Stanfield doesn't intend for the rest of her senior season to go quietly.
Whether it is creating a commotion at the plate or raising a ruckus in the dugout, the New Hope High School catcher wants to do everything she can to help the school's fast-pitch softball team make history.
Long regarded as one of the state's premier slow-pitch softball programs, New Hope has made strides in recent years and has become one of the state's top fast-pitch squads. Led by Stanfield and a group of "Fantastic Four" classmates, the Lady Trojans again are in position to make a run at the school's first fast-pitch state title. Stanfield played a key role in three victories last week, going 6-for-11 with two doubles and six RBIs to help push New Hope to a 18-1 record entering its game Monday against Neshoba Central.
For her accomplishments, Stanfield is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"I haven't been thinking out it too much," Stanfield said. "I just have been getting up there and relaxing. ... When I am up to the plate and not thinking about it and having fun, that is what I have done my whole life, so it just comes easier. I do have a tendency to over-think it. It doesn't work sometimes. Not everybody can have perfect night every night. It is part of being an athlete. You just have to think, 'Next play, next play.' "
In February, Stanfield signed a scholarship to play softball at East Mississippi Community College. The day was the culmination of years of hard work for Stanfield, who has earned a reputation for haunting Lady Trojan Field with "Fantastic" classmates Lauren Holifield, Ashley Reed, and Erin Stanfield, her sister. The hours the four players spent on weeknights or on the weekend at the field have helped them play integral roles in the success of New Hope's softball teams.
This season, coming off a loss to Neshoba Central that denied New Hope a chance to earn another slow-pitch championship, Stanfield is eager to make amends and help New Hope take the next step. Last season, New Hope lost to Warren Central in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A State title series.
New Hope coach Tabitha Beard points to Stanfield's three-hit, three-RBI effort in a 5-3 victory against Neshoba Central on April 2 in Philadelphia as the moment when something clicked with Stanfield. The Lady Trojans scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning in that game to set the stage for Monday's clinching victory. The win secured New Hope a bye in the playoffs, which it will open April 26.
"I think I did really good that game," Stanfield said. "I threw a couple of girls out and I got a couple of good hits."
Stanfield was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI in a 4-1 victory against West Lauderdale last Monday. She was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs in a 6-2 victory against Quitman on Friday. She was 1-for-4, two-RBI effort in a 16-1 victory against Caledonia on Saturday.
For Stanfield, New Hope's playoff run will be bittersweet considering she and her classmates have been intertwined in the program's success for so many years. This season, Stanfield said she has made a point to be a more assertive and a more vocal leader. That emotion was on display in the middle innings Monday, as Stanfield paced the New Hope dugout and pumped her fist as she led her teammates in cheers.
Stanfield credited her teammates for picking her up on a night when she went 0-for-3. She said she probably was too hyped up at the plate and is eager to get back to practice to correct the things she knows she did wrong.
"I love doing that. I love pumping my team up," Stanfield said. "I told them in the seventh inning when we went out to the field, 'Whatever it takes. If we have to dive, dive. If you have to slide, whatever you have to do.' I just love pumping them up because you can tell we play really well when we're pumped and we play as a team."
Beard said Stanfield's ability not to let the hitless performance take her out of the game is another sign of her maturity. In the past, she said Stanfield wouldn't have been in the game if she was having a bad night at the plate.
"At Neshoba, she was lights out," Beard said. "She was really struggling tonight. I think a lot of that was she was so amped up and trying a little too hard, maybe. For her to stay in like she did and not be in the back of the dugout pouting, there are certain little things you have to do (shake it off and say), 'So what, next pitch. Do what you have to do.' ... Those are the things we're trying to ingrain every day. Hopefully, the little girls pick up on it and that will be the legacy they leave behind. That will be the Lauren and the Kasey and the Ashley Reed and the Erin that no matter where you are in a game you don't stop. You go 110 percent."
Stanfield said her presence as more of a vocal leader comes with the responsibility of being a senior. She knows it is in her hands and those of her classmates to help lead the Lady Trojans to a state championship.
Beard said that attitude is typical for Stanfield, whose work ethic has helped set the tone for younger players.
"She has always loved this game. It has never been a doubt," Beard said. "She has really stepped up verbally, vocally, and on the field. A lot of that is a lot of her hard work paying off. Kasey is that kid at 9 o'clock on a Friday night where is she going to be? She is going to be (at Lady Trojan Field). Sunday, I didn't even have to say a word, she and her sister came to squeegee the whole field to get the water off. They were like, 'We are playing.' Those are the things you look for as a coach and you're just like, 'Man, that's what we need to be successful.' "
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.