Byrd selected to All-State

Published 6:01 am Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pleasant Home’s Emily Byrd was selected to the ASWA’s Class 1A All-State softball team. Byrd had an ERA of 1.89 this season, and averaged 6.26 strikeouts per game. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Emily Byrd finishes about a two-hour practice at Eagles Field, gets a quick bite to eat and goes back to work perfecting her pitching.

The Pleasant Home junior’s hard work ethic and strong command on the mound this season earned her a spot on the first team of the Class 1A Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State softball team.

Byrd helped lead the Lady Eagles to a runner up finish at the state tournament this season. She helped push PHS through the winner’s bracket not only at the regional tournament, but at state as well.

This season, Byrd had an earned run average (ERA) of 1.89, and averaged 6.26 strikeouts per game. She struck out 195 total for the season, and had seven shut out wins for the Lady Eagles.

“I’ve never kept up with my stats at all,” Byrd said when asked about her ERA. “I’ve just never worried about that. Seeing that, yeah, that’s where I need to be.”

Byrd said she stuck to the few keys that helped her be successful this year.

“I was just trying to make all of my pitches work and hit my spots — keeping myself healthy so I wouldn’t get hurt, so I could last the whole season,” she said.

Early in the season, Byrd demonstrated tenacity as she pitched with a fractured growth plate in her collarbone.

When asked how she overcame so much adversity — being the only starting pitcher for the team and fighting through curtains of fatigue — Byrd said rest and “staying in shape” were at the forefront of what she did to keep going.

“If I wasn’t playing, I would rest a lot and stay in shape,” she said. “Just when my arm would hurt, I’d use Icy Hot to keep it loose.”

At age 9, Byrd started pitching on her dad’s 10-and-under travel softball team, the Southern Heat.

She said her dad has helped her pitching because he would work with her every night throughout the school year after practices.

“He’s helped a lot,” Byrd said. “When I was 10, he started taking me to pitching lessons. I’ve been going there ever since. And, he’s always helped me throughout the whole year, even if I was playing something else, we would still make time to go pitch.”

Additionally, Byrd said she has fit in pitching lessons once per week, every month.

“The whole year, I’m always pitching,” she said. “This year, (PHS) coach (Bradley) Stephens let him work with me on his own. After practice, I would just go pitch with my dad. We would do what we needed to do. It would really help.”

Her work ethic and tenacity showed, especially during the south regional tournament in Gulf Shores, where Byrd said her most memorable moment of the season occurred.

Pleasant Home beat Kinston 9-2 to earn its state tournament berth, and the game finished in the wee hours of the morning.

Byrd said the whole team felt good after that win.

“We were so tired, but we just remembered looking at the clock and it being after midnight,” she said. “It was a really good game. If we would’ve played like that, we would’ve won state.”

Byrd said the team will utilize its experience playing for the state championship this year in the hopes of making it back to state next year.

“We have all of that experience for next year,” she said. “It makes us a stronger team. Even playing in the state championship game, it kind of was a little nerve racking. If you have it under your belt, then you’ll play to have fun and you’ll win.”

Byrd is the daughter of Tommy and Jennifer Byrd of Andalusia. She has a sister, Erin, who plays on a softball scholarship for Faulkner University in Montgomery.

Editor’s note: Pleasant Home’s Raven Woods was also selected to the ASWA’s Class 1A All-State softball team. Look for a story on Woods next week.