Bailey big pitch at Co-Lin

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WESSON — Becca Bailey’s broad shoulders have carried theCopiah-Lincoln Community College softball team to the NJCAADivision II National Tournament in Normal, Ill. The sophomorepitcher has been a dominant force at Co-Lin, using her classicriseball to befuddle opposing batters.

as the Lady Wolves marched unbeaten through the state andregional tournaements. Their first national test arrives Thursday,at 2:30 p.m.

She leaned against the concrete dugout wall and discussed theadversity she overcame this season. It was a cold and seeminglydark day for Bailey when a sharp pain in her left knee broughttears to her eyes. The date was Jan. 4, 2008, the second day ofpreseason softball practice. The pain came from a torn ACL.

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Upon further inspection, the prognosis by medical experts wasgrim at best. “The doctor told me the odds of my knee making itthrough season were very slim. He said in 10 cases involving a tornACL, only two players made it through the season.”

Five months and 41 games later, Bailey is still going strong.She wears a protective brace on her left knee. Soreness in herright knee is a minor inconvenience.

“I had a lot of encouragement after I tore the ACL,” Baileyrecalled. “My parents, my coaches and my teammates told me I couldmake it. Those were tough times.”

Gradually, Bailey worked her way back, ever mindful of thesoreness in her left knee. After each practice and game, her kneewas wrapped in a large bag of ice to reduce swelling and ease thepain.

“I wanted to beat the odds,” said Bailey. “I wanted to prove Icould play on that knee.”

The strain of consecutive days pitching during the statetournament, caught up with Bailey. “I told coach (Allen) Kent totake me out.”

Sophomore teammate Kayla Crochet took over and preserved thevictory over East Central.

For the season, Bailey has compiled aN 18-4 record. She went 6-0in the state and regional tournaments. In 136 innings, she hasstruck out 187 batters and walked 22, compiling a 1.28 ERA.

The 5-foot-6 Bailey, at age 22, is the oldest player on Co-Lin’steam. She originally signed with LSU coming out of Live Oak HighSchool. She sat out a year before deciding to pitch again.

She has signed to pitch for Lock-Haven (Pa.) University nextseason. Lock-Haven, an NCAA Division II member, won the 2006national championship and was runner-up last year.

“I’m very pleased with our team,” said Bailey. “We have beenpretty close. Our players treat each other with respect. There’s alot of energy on our team.”

Freshman catcher Missy Paulina works behind the plate whenBailey pitches. She enjoys the experience.

“Becca is amazing,” said Paulina. “She has her heart in theright place for every game. She’s very good to work with.”

Bailey has an arsenal of pitches but Paulina knows which one ismost effective. “She’s a good riseball pitcher. The riseball is herpitch.”

Co-Lin Staff Has Depth

Besides Bailey and Crochet, Co-Lin counts on Rebecca Rousseauand Meleah Brown to deliver the pitches. Crochet (7-2) has a 2.02ERA, fanning 60 batters in 59 innings and walking 20.

“It’s been a great year for us,” said Crochet. “Our defense hasbeen awesome. It always helps out when you have somebody to backyou up. Our team has really come together.”

Crochet said her freshman campaign was a learning expericne.”I’m getting used to the college level. Everybody can hit. I ampitching better because I have a better feel for it.”

Asked about her arsenal, Crochet said, “Usually, I throw acurveball. My best pitch is my dropball. I’ve been most successfulwith it.”

Crochet, who plays second base when she isn’t in the pitchingcircle, said the entire team improves when Bailey is pitching. “Ihave big confidence in her. She helps us better ourselves. When youhave a good pitcher on the mound, it makes you want to playbetter.”

Crochet is being recruited by several schools. She said sheplans to major in business and marketing.

Coach Kent said his pitching staff has shown overallimprovement. “We are fortunate to have a lot of depth at pitching,more so than we have ever had.

“Bailey has been our workhorse,” Kent continued. “She’s abig-game pitcher. We feel real confident when she’s out there.”

Asked about Crochet, Kent said, “Kayla won a lot of big divisiongames for us this season. She helped us split some games in thedivision doubleheaders when we needed a split.”

Rousseau (4-1) and Brown (4-1) have identical records. Rousseau,a freshman from Shreveport, La. has a 2.92 ERA, fanning 37 battersand walking 13 in 38 innings.

Brown, a sophomore from Bogue Chitto, starts at third base. Onthe mound, she has accumulated 18 strikeouts and 14 walks in 31innings.

“Rebecca Rousseau gave us a No.3 pitcher who was very good,”said Kent. “Meleah Brown could step up and pitch for us, too.

Freshman Ashley Jones has no decisions but is another pitcherwho is ready, if needed.

“We probably lost 18 games to rainouts and cancellations,” saidKent, looking back on the regular season. “I would have liked tohave gotten more pitching for our other pitchers.”

Kent believes his pitchers and the entire team are eager to makea strong run for the national title this week. The Lady Wolvesdidn’t have nearly as much pitching depth but finished third in2006.