May 29, 2009
DeShuni Sanders is old school.
But the New Hope High School senior standout showed this season that even old schoolers can succeed in a faster environment.
Sanders and Hamilton High senior standout Kelle West added honors to their resumes earlier this week when they were chosen second-team All-State by The Clarion Ledger in Jackson.
Sanders didn''t learn of the honor until Wednesday when her father, Donnie, told her.
"It is a blessing," Sanders said. "They could have given it to anybody else because there are better fast-pitch players than me. To get that recognition and for people to recognize me, it is an honor."
Sanders might have been surprised by the fast-pitch honor because she grew up playing slow-pitch softball. She learned to love that sport and considers it her better sport, but it is slowly being replaced by fast-pitch softball at the high school level in the state of Mississippi.
As the tide has turned to fast-pitch, Sanders has adapted to a world of pitches that come in at 60 mph or faster. She also has experimented with slapping, when a player tries to hit the softball while moving toward first base, and bunting to capitalize on her speed.
Sanders'' ability to adjust to the faster game helped her earn a scholarship to play fast-pitch softball at East Mississippi Community College.
Still, slow-pitch softball always will be special to Sanders.
"I always will have that slow-pitch in me," Sanders said. "I was raised on slow-pitch and I played that all of the way up, and I still play it. I really love it more than I do fast-pitch, but fast-pitch is the sport that is coming out and more people are playing and getting into."
Tabitha Beard, who coaches New Hope High''s slow-pitch and fast-pitch softball teams, said Sanders has been an invaluable member of both teams.
"DeShuni is just a special player and a special person," Beard. "I am so proud of her for what she has accomplished."
Earlier this month, Sanders received the PopStar Award in recognition of being the state''s top slow-pitch softball player.
The award honors the top three high school athletes in 23 sports categories. All male and female athletes in Mississippi are eligible for the awards, which are symbolic of being the state''s top athlete in each sport.
Sanders led the Lady Trojans to the Class 4A slow-pitch state title last year. She had a .550 batting average, a .576 on-base percentage, and a .780 slugging percentage.
Sanders also played an integral role in the fast-pitch team''s run to the Class 4A North Half state semifinals.
Sanders will continue her softball career in the fall at EMCC.
"It is good to see someone who has worked so hard and someone who is that dedicated get rewarded," Beard said. "I am excited for her."
West played just as big of a role for the Lady Lions, who lost to Loyd Star in the Class 2A best-of-three state finals series this season
"Kelle was just a great player to coach," Hamilton High fast-pitch coach Jason Cobb said. "She worked hard and was a silent leader and someone who led by example. I really enjoyed coaching her the past three years."
Cobb also coached West in slow-pitch softball. He said West''s versatility (she played outfield in slow-pitch and infield and pitcher in fast-pitch) helped her get an opportunity to play softball at Northeast Mississippi Community College.
West was named the fast-pitch team''s MVP after hitting .386 with 26 RBIs.
"She is kind of a utility type of player," Cobb said. "She is just a good kid. She is one of them I sure hate to lose."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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