|McSheffery having another MVP-caliber season|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
April 22, 2004 -- Playing third base, Sulphur Springs' Melissa McSheffery wants the ball hit to her on every pitch.
That would be OK with coach John McCullough.
"That wouldn't hurt my feelings at all," McCullough said. "They could hit all 21 outs to her and that would be great.
"When it's hit to her, you have that confidence that she'll make the play. As a coach, that's what you look for, that confidence in a player that when the ball's hit there, there's no doubt an out will be made."
McSheffery, a senior who doubles as pitcher and third baseman, has given McCullough that confidence for three years, including last season's district Most Valuable Player campaign.
She has certainly played like an MVP again this year. Batting in the pivotal third spot in the lineup, McSheffery leads the team in batting average (.380), RBIs (23), hits (35), doubles (11) and homeruns (2). Of her total number of hits, almost half of them (14) have been for extra bases.
In one inning on Tuesday, Melissa McSheffery showed the qualities that made her the district MVP. Playing third base in the top of the fourth inning, she flagged down a chopper in the hole that seemed destined for a base hit and made a strong throw to get the runner at first.
Then, she led off the bottom of the inning with a double into the right-center field gap and ended up being the tying run. That was also the inning, though, in which she strained her left quadriceps muscle. The injury wasn't quite as serious as originally thought, but it's still questionable if she'll be able to play in the bi-district opener next Friday.
"Melissa's an all-around player," McCullough said. "She's plays outstanding in the field, and she's great at the plate. She could step out and play outfield. She's the kind of athlete that can play anywhere you put her. She has great speed, a great arm. She has great reaction. A lot of balls she gets to, other people can't reach them because she has such quick reflexes."
Melissa admits that playing infield "seems natural. I like making the diving plays, things like that."
While Lady Cat fans see the finished product on the field, they haven't seen all the work that McSheffery has put into the sport for more than a decade. She started playing softball at age six, joined a traveling team two years later and has been playing spring, summer and fall for the last 10 years.
She has played in national tournaments in Tennessee, Florida and Missouri as part of metroplex teams. Along the way, her father, John McSheffery, has been coach or assistant coach on most teams, and Melissa credits him with developing her talent.
"Coaching styles are a lot different. Dad coached me for the longest, but it's pretty easy to adjust -- you just go out there and play.
"He's hard on me, but I'm the player I am because of him. A lot of other coaches may not have been as hard on me, but I had to listen to him or we took off running. I think that's where I get my coachability for other coaches. It's worked out well."
Coach McCullough said Melissa comes the first day of practice already in mid-season form.
"She plays year-round. She's played during the summers and fall. Her dad works with her and does a great job of working on fundamentals," he explained. "Then, we try to build on that and keep her in a groove. When she gets here, she's already in a groove. Playing all the time has really benefited her."
McSheffery has set a standard of excellence for herself that includes being in the Leadership Class and taking AP English, AP calculus, and college concurrent classes in government and finance. She has already signed a scholarship offer to play softball for St. Edward's University in Austin, a Division II member of the Heartland Conference.