May 6, 2010 2:05:00 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
Anna Holley does everything at game speed.
Whether she''s hustling to second base to take infield grounders or she''s catching her pitcher and popping the ball back to the circle, Holley helps set the tone for the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team.
"Anna studies the game and loves the game, and it shows with that pep in her step and that perkiness," New Hope High coach Tabitha Beard said. "When you''re that confident and you have worked as hard as she has you sort of do have a swagger that is evident to others.
"Not to say she is cocky, by any means, but she has a confident air to herself."
Holley will put her leadership skills to the test at 5 p.m. today when New Hope plays at Hernando in game one of the best-of-three Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A playoff series.
Holley credits her father and her sister, Amanda (Holley) McMurphy, for helping teach her how to play the game with hustle and focus. She said she also learned the importance of playing the game that way from older Lady Trojans, and said she now tries to do the same for her teammates.
"That is just how I like to play," Holley said. "It is hard sometimes and it just happens. I don''t know if I am a role model to them. I would like to think I am. We used to have a Reagan Aultman, or a Jessica Lee, or a Rachel Baucom, somebody there who was picking you up. Now that we''re finally the older ones, believe it or not, we have to have somebody."
Off the field, Holley, a junior, enjoys nurturing younger teammates and providing a positive example. She admits her desire to be in control of situations could explain why she apparently is always in motion around a softball field.
Beard wouldn''t have Holley act any other way. She said Holley, one of seven upperclassmen (six juniors) on the team, is constantly looking for ways to improve or to help the team, whether it is playing solid defense or leading the team in sacrifice bunts.
Holley played second base and shortstop earlier in her softball career at New Hope. She spent most of last season at catcher before transitioning to second base to accommodate Kasey Stanfield. She has made the adjustment look easy with consistent play in the infield.
"Pitching is just about the only position she hasn''t played," Beard said. "She is the epitome of a team player. Anything her team needs she does it without a care in the world. That type of attitude has helped her transition well."
Holley still sees playing time at catcher. She admits she enjoys playing that position more than second base because it suits her personality and how she enjoys being in control.
Holley also enjoys playing catcher because she can help set the pace of the game. She said she likes to "catch people off guard" and to keep things going. So far, the tempo has rubbed off on the Lady Trojans and, ultimately, Holley hopes it will rub off on her students. She said she would like to be an elementary school teacher and a coach.
Just one look at how Holley works with pitchers and carries herself on the field shows she has what it takes for those challenges.
"The younger girl really seem to look up to and respect her," Beard said. "She is the one when things gets rough who says, ''We''re going to be OK. We can do this,'' and pick everybody up."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.