Simply “throwing” the softball rather than trying to “place” it allowed Paulding County High’s Abbie Crawford to break records this year, her coach says.
Head Coach David Devey said he believed Crawford this season “actually wasn't trying to be so fine with her pitching” compared to 2016.
“She was trying to place the ball last year and this year she is throwing it and hitting her spots and location,” Devey said.
The senior hurler recently broke a school softball record and tied a county record in two separate games with 17 strikeouts each against Lithia Springs Sept. 18 and East Paulding Sept. 25. Through Sept. 25, Crawford had 151 strikeouts in 82 innings pitched, Devey said.
She also can play at the first and third base positions on defense, and was hitting .467 with 14 hits, nine RBI and 10 walks through Sept. 25.
Crawford said her top memory so far this season was the “Senior Night” game Sept. 18.
“My whole family came to support me at the game, and it truly meant a lot to me,” she said.
She said she wished her late grandmother had been able to attend because she had been a major supporter of her softball career.
“My grandmother passed away in 2010 and she was a big part of my softball career. That night I wanted to play for her,” Crawford recalled.
“That night was pretty emotional for me,” she said. “I am drawing to end of my high school career, and my grandmother and best friend will not be there to see it.”
Crawford said Assistant Coach Chris Widing helped her develop her pitching skills this year. Devey and Widing also are assistant coaches on the Patriots baseball team, where Widing is the pitching coach.
“(Widing) has helped me tremendously on my mental aspect of the game, and that’s something I will be able to take to the next level,” she said.
A player who helped Crawford find success this year was catcher Kendal Cantrell.
“I have to give most of my success this year to my catcher,” Crawford said. “Most pitchers will admit that they can only be as good as their catcher, and I can testify to that 100 percent.”
She said she learned this year that she and her teammates had to become “a true team” to compete.
“Without the help of everyone on our roster, sometimes we would not be able to make it through a game,” she said. “Learning how to step up and be a good teammate and a leader for the team has changed my game forever.”
The senior is the daughter of Terry and Becky Crawford. She said she first began playing the game as a youngster in Paulding County Parks and Recreation Department leagues.
“Let me tell you: I was bad,” Crawford said. “Without the help of all my coaches over the years I would never be the athlete I am today.”
Her 12-and-under league coaches, Mike Reece and Brent Higgins, helped her regain her love for the game during a rough time for her mentally, Crawford said.
“That year I had lost all of my confidence in myself, and I was ready to give up softball,” she said. “God blessed me with putting those two in my life and renewing my love for the game.”
Crawford plays travel softball with the Georgia Elite for coaches Dickey Vallery and Sharon Perkins in the summer.
Devey, in his second year coaching the Patriots, said he believed Crawford’s “leadership, work ethic and determination” will make her successful at the college level. Crawford already has accepted a scholarship to play softball at the University of North Georgia.
Crawford said North Georgia is giving her the chance both to attend college and continue playing softball competitively.
“I am blessed to have found a home for the next four years of my life and a chance to continue my athletic and educational careers,” she said.