January 31, 2013 12:27:36 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
CARROLLTON, Ala. -- Whitney Lowe still remembers the tipping point.
For so long, she had tried to hit a home run. Every extra ounce of body language never seemed to be enough to help a ball leave the yard, so Lowe always was left with a nagging piece of doubt. Was she good enough?
But one fateful blow was all it took to help things finally click for Lowe.
The Pickens Academy senior infielder could look back two years ago to the day she hit her first home run over the fence as the moment when she realized she was good enough and that she could play softball in college.
On Wednesday, Lowe realized that goal when she signed a scholarship to play softball at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
"As I got older, it became like a dream to me that I would get to play softball after I graduated high school, and my dream came true," Lowe said. "I have always worked hard, and hitting is my thing. I love to hit. I guess when I hit my first home run it made me feel like I can do this. It kind of gave me that little boost to help me out some."
Lowe said she was playing on a travel softball team, the Tuscaloosa Express, her sophomore year of high school when she officially became a power hitter. The hit helped complete a transformation that began as an eighth-grader at Pickens Academy.
"Things got better and I had more confidence in myself," Lowe said. "I became more of a leader because I felt like I can do it and I can help people more with what they're doing.
"I had worked so hard. I had hit every day that summer and I never was able to hit a home run. I hit them to the fence, off the fence, bounced the fence, but I never got it over, but that one game it felt great."
Pickens Academy softball coach Wade Goodman, who also coaches Lowe on the girls basketball team, remembers Lowe being a quiet eighth-grader who didn't have a lot of confidence. He recalls Lowe saying that year, "I don't really care if we win or lose" and "I have not been very competitive."
Things have certainly changed since then. Goodman said he tested her that first season and hit groundball after groundball to her. After Lowe had plenty of emotional days that season, Goodman said she turned the corner.
"I was pushing her. We were going to make you competitive," Goodman said. "She had to be willing to do the work. She could have said, 'I am not doing it anymore.' She was willing to go through all of that and she is a totally different person. She has too much confidence now sometimes. It has been wonderful to see that transition in her life. To play sports and to coach, you have got to have confidence."
Goodman said Lowe makes the most of her abilities. He said she has a strong arm and a potent bat, and that she has learned how to play the game and is a standout on and off the field.
East Mississippi C.C. coach Kyndall White immediately saw those qualities in Lowe. The first-year coach, who was an All-Southeastern Conference infielder at Auburn University, saw Lowe on a summer ball team her father coached out of Birmingham, Ala. She likes Lowe's work ethic and hitting and knows her attitude is the type she wants in the program.
"When she gets a hold of one, it goes a long way," White said. "We like having power in our lineup, and she is going to fit in really well."
EMCC went 18-24 last season with Kate Neely as coach. Neely resigned after the season, which allowed White to come in and try to build on four consecutive trips to the state playoffs under Neely.
"Hard work is completely what we talk about," White said. "Hustle, hard work, and being there for your teammates. We are trying to change the culture there a little bit. Not saying they haven't been good in the past because they have been. Coach Neely did a great job, but we are just trying to take it to that next step, that next level. We want to win at regionals. We want to win state. We want to win our division. These girls have put in a lot of effort for us. We're very pleased with what we have, and we're very happy to have Whitney on board."
Lowe knows the transition from high school to college will be a transition, but looking back at how far she has come she is confident she is prepared to take that step.
"I have improved so much over the years because of my coaches, my parents, and my fellow players," Lowe said. "They have helped me out a lot. I think that is how I have become more confident in myself because I have put the effort in and I have had other people push me to my limit to make me better."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.