April 11, 2011 9:40:00 AM
It''s not easy to be patient when you''re the center of attention.
But Nashedra Barry wanted to make a change, so she knew she needed to take things slowly.
An offseason filled with plenty of work with her pitching coach and a focused approach at the beginning of the season have helped Barry settle in as one of the East Mississippi Community College softball team''s top pitchers.
At 3 p.m. today, the former Columbus High School standout and the Lady Lions (16-17, 12-2 MACJC North Division) will take on Itawamba C.C. (20-13, 11-3) in Fulton in a first-place showdown.
Barry has helped carry the load in the circle for coach Kate Neely''s team. She is 5-2 with a team-leading 1.10 ERA. She has allowed 31 hits in 44 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and 19 walks.
Barry also has been a solid contributor at the plate. She is third on the team with a .386 batting average. She has scored seven runs, has 11 RBIs with two doubles, a home run, and 22 hits. She is fourth on the team in on-base percentage (.419).
"She is just a key player," Neely said. "She played lot at third base last year and moved to 1B because she has the height to be a good first baseman. She has produced in the circle and at the plate. She is not a very verbal kid, but she is a silent leader with how she carries herself. She has been a good asset to her team."
Barry, who also played basketball at EMCC, admitted to being a little nervous last season when she joined the softball team halfway through the season. She said the late start forced her to press a little bit and feel she had something to prove to her teammates. As a result, she didn''t feel as comfortable as she does this season in the circle.
Barry took that feeling into the offseason and worked with pitching coach Roy Watkins on relaxing and building confidence. The result has been a more poised pitcher who is relying on her dropball to confound hitters.
"I feel more relaxed this year," Barry said. "I am more confident and know the coaches have confidence in me."
Barry feels she is doing a lot better than last season, but she knows there still is plenty for her to work on. She credits her work with Watkins, who has been her pitching coach since she was 13 or 14 years old, for helping her to believe in being patient.
Neely has seen a big difference in Barry in the circle, even though Barry feels she hasn''t changed many things.
"She has more control under her belt," Neely said. "She felt she was going to be more of a defensive player because we do have so many pitchers on staff, but she has been a lot more consistent."
Neely said Barry has learned how to harness her power and to combine it with solid mechanics. She also feels a year of experience has been key to Barry''s ability to become a shut-down pitcher.
"Nashedra is just an athlete," Neely said. "If she wanted to play polo she would be an asset to the team. She excels at everything she does, and in the classroom, too."
Barry has a grade-point average above 3.5. Neely feels Barry''s athleticism and good grades make her a great candidate to move on to play softball at a four-year school.
Barry plans to study biology/pre med in college. She said she already has applied to Mississippi State and isn''t sure if she will get a chance to play softball after EMCC. She said she would consider an opportunity to continue her softball career if one comes.
Until then, Barry will stick to her patient approach to keep getting hitters out.
"I definitely expected to more of an infielder," Barry said. "I definitely enjoy pitching, and I am glad I got the opportunity to pitch as much as I have this season."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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