Caraway aims for the top

Published 12:01 am Thursday, June 16, 2011

Straughn’s Paige Caraway was selected to the first team of the Class 4A All-State team, voted on by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Caraway will be going to the University of Georgia on a softball scholarship this fall. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn softball standout Paige Caraway knows hard work, determination and support from a lot of great people can take one far in life.

Caraway, who started playing baseball at the age of 5, has found astounding success on the mound through her years of play, and most recently was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s All-State team as a utility player on the first team in Class 4A.

“I didn’t really see it coming,” she said. “Class 4A is one of the hardest classifications next to 6A, and to be up there, it’s amazing.”

Caraway recalled when she first began playing softball.

“I was probably around 9,” she said.

Caraway said she grew up on the baseball diamond following in the footsteps of older brother, Derek.

“I grew up on the baseball field watching Derek,” she said. “Then when I started pitching, it was a lot of fun.”

Since then, Caraway has embarked on a journey from youth rec league ball through high school softball, ending her high school career at SHS with a trip to the state tournament. It was her first appearance.

“Walking into the ball park, it was like ‘this is it,’” she said. “This is what we’ve worked hard for.

“I got an adrenaline rush,” she said. “Even after we lost that first game, I knew we could do it.”

In her senior season, Caraway had an ERA of 1.24, which she credits to a solid defense, help from her pitching coach Jim Webb, batting help from her brother Derek, and overall coaching from SHS Coach Ray Wilson.

“I knew I could trust (the team),” she said “I didn’t have to pitch perfectly,” she said. “I was calmer, and I had more fun this year. I’m definitely going to miss them.

“Coach Webb helped me with my spinning in my pitching,” she said. “And Derek helped me with my pitching.”

Additionally, Caraway struck out 170 batters.

“I used the curve and change up, and just mixed it up,” she said. “But my favorite it the rise ball. Last year, whenever I threw, it would jump up, and most people swung at it.”

Caraway moved from Andalusia to Straughn for her senior year, but said it didn’t take long for her to fit in with the team.

“It was crazy,” she said. “We always were working hard. We all clicked so well together. We were all so close.”

Caraway said she wasn’t really nervous about changing schools because she already knew the majority of the girls on the team.

“I knew Tiffany (Taylor) and Tori (Bracewell) and some others because I played with them in Babe Ruth during the summer,” she said.

Caraway said playing at Straughn made her more confident, and that she learned life lessons on and off the field.

“Coach Wilson actually taught us stuff about how we affect other people,” she said. “It was really important to me.”

Among her most memorable experiences were her home runs against Ashford and Pleasant Home.

“Really I have a lot of good memories,” she said. “I also enjoyed the night after we lost to Ardmore. We all knew it was our last night together. It was sad because we knew it was over, but we were happy to be together.”

Caraway complied a record of 27-4-1; pitched 35 games, 163.2 innings, only allowing 127 hits and 56 runs.

Those stats earned her a scholarship to play SEC softball for the Georgia Bulldogs.

“I feel lucky that I get more years of softball,” she said. “I know I’ll have to work hard, but I have for a long time.

“Being from this area, you don’t expect to go to a big SEC/ACC team.,” she said. “I know it will be a challenge. I’m not really nervous, but I know I have to go out there and just prove myself.

“It’s kind of like my eighth grade year at Andalusia,” she said. “I had to prove myself then. Those girls are good, but I’m excited about the adventure.”

Caraway is the daughter of Eddie and Paula Caraway of Dozier.