January 22, 2014 11:10:49 PM
MACON -- Sammy Lindsey has six-plus years of stories to tell about Blake Rigdon.
The Central Academy softball coach has had plenty of time in the past week to relive many of those moments. On Wednesday, he was asked to recall his favorite. He had to go back to the beginning of Rigdon's career for the memory that stood out the most.
"One of the things I will never forget is when she was in the sixth grade and starting on the varsity team," Lindsey said. "In one of her first at-bats, she got hit in the head by the pitcher. I went down there and said, 'Are you all right?' She said, 'Yeah, if you will just run to first base with me.' I ran to first with her. That is what started the whole thing."
Thirteen softball seasons later, Lindsey and Rigdon came full circle, as the Central Academy senior signed a scholarship to play softball at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
For Lindsey, who has coached the fast- and slow-pitch programs at the school since Rigdon started playing with the varsity teams in elementary school, it was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by a young player who has grown into a leader.
"Her dedication and leadership over the years have been a part of so many good moments," Lindsey said. "The first time you saw her you knew the talent was there. You were just waiting for the strength and the mental maturity and the physical strength to get a little better. You knew she was going to be what she turned out to be, a great, great player."
Rigdon hit .542 and had an on-base percentage of .627 this past season for the Lady Vikings' fast-pitch program.
"She has done a lot of great things for this program," Lindsey said. "She has not only been a vocal leader, but she has led by example. She never put herself ahead of anybody. The other girls saw that and they knew they had to get after it if they wanted to play. Every team needs a player like that."
Rigdon has nearly done it all in her softball career at the school. She has played catcher, shortstop, outfield, and pitcher. She said she isn't sure which position she will have the best shot at when she arrives at EMCC, but she said she is eager to take the next step in her maturation as a softball player.
"I am really nervous, but I am ready to meet new people and to have a new team," Rigdon said. "That means a lot to me."
Rigdon said she first talked to coaches from EMCC following the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools All-Star games. She said then visited the campus and knew very quickly she wanted to go to EMCC if she was fortunate enough to receive an offer. When she did, she felt everything come full circle after years of hard work to get to this point.
Thinking back to Lindsey's favorite memory, Rigdon feels she has come so far from the player who needed an escort to first base years ago.
"I was telling Mr. Sammy last night I am ready to leave because you can't stay in the same place forever, but it is going to be so sad when I do leave because I am leaving all of my teammates.
"Being at a small school, we play all sports, so we can't focus on one thing. Now that I am fixin' to graduate and that is the only thing I am going to be doing, I feel like I can get even better at it.
"She will probably step up to the level," Lindsey said. "Even though she played well here, she is probably going to increase her intensity a little more when she is around other real good athletes. Not saying we don't have some here, but when you get there, all of them are really good."
That next step doesn't faze Rigdon because she said she realized in eighth grade that she wanted to play softball in college. Things changed in her junior year when she said she got "overwhelmed" and she told her mother, Angie, that she thought she didn't want to play.
Rigdon's attitude changed midway through this season when she realized this school year could be the end of her softball career. She said she had an epiphany that made her feel she didn't want it to end. Fortunately, she received
"I am so excited. I don't know how to explain it," Rigdon said. "I am so happy. I am going to miss the people I am leaving, but I am so ready to open a new door.
"It is going to be rough, but, like I said, it is a new start and (you) start from the beginning. Workouts at 6:30 a.m. are going to be tough, but I will adapt. Even if I didn't think I could do it, you're just going to have to put your mind in it and make yourself better and do it and make yourself prove a point."
n On Tuesday, the Hebron Christian girls basketball team defeated Central Academy 67-42. Blake Rigdon had 17 points, 10 rebounds, and six steals. Allie Beth Rigdon had 11 rebounds, and Courtney Gaylord had seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
In the girls junior varsity game, Hebron Christian beat Central Academy 37-29. Sadie Lindsey had seven points, three rebounds, and five steals, Allie Beth Rigdon had seven points, six rebounds, nine steals, and three blocks, Kelsey Robbins had seven points, four rebounds, and two steals, and Ashly Brown had six points.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.