Megan Derryberry’s pitching skills helped lead her Wilson Lady Eagles all the way to the Class 3A state Slow-Pitch softball tournament this spring. She finished the year with a 26-4 record, pitched 174 innings and had 11 strike-outs.

Megan Derryberry’s pitching skills helped lead her Wilson Lady Eagles all the way to the Class 3A state Slow-Pitch softball tournament this spring. She finished the year with a 26-4 record, pitched 174 innings and had 11 strike-outs.

Her overall success inside the circle as a pitcher and as a leader, has earned her the honor of The Daily Ardmoreite’s Slow-Pitch pitcher of the year for 2008.

“One of the things that sets Megan apart is her confidence,” Wilson coach Scott Hartman said. “She had so many different situations come up throughout the year, including the day at state, that she had to work through with weather and everything. She seems to have nerves of steel when it comes to pitching in big games. The game at state was played with about a 35 mph wind blowing. And she only walked two batters that day. That’s a gutsy performance for someone playing in those conditions.

“She fields her position so well,” Hartman said. “She moves quickly all over the field, and she can get to almost anything hit around her and make a play. She catches for us in fast-pitch. So she’s not afraid of the ball, or of getting down on the ball to make a play. Her leadership out there on the rubber was such a key for us having the success we had all season long. And her coolness under pressure was a big part in taking us all the way to state.”

Derryberry understands the key to a great season as a slow-pitch softball pitcher lies in large part in the defensive play of those behind her. And she is quick to point that out.

“My teammates had everything to do with me receiving this honor,” Derryberry said. “Without them going out and playing great defense, we simply couldn’t have been very successful. We improved as a team so much in our fielding this year. Without people making great catches and throws behind me on defense, this honor for me just wouldn’t have happened.

“I was excited when I found out I had won the award,” Derryberry said.” I watched my dad (Jimmy) pitch softball, and I guess I always wanted to be out there doing it too. I can’t remember when softball was not a part of our family. My dad played, and he got me into it when I was really young. This was my first year at Wilson. It was an honor to make it to state in this, my junior year, and I hope we’re able to put things together and make it all the way back again.”

Hartman and Derryberry’s dad played together, and that helped the junior pitcher adapt better to Hartman’s directions.

“It wasn’t like I was being taught by a stranger,” Derryberry said. “It’s a lot easier when you know someone. I trusted his judgment right from the beginning, because my dad always had such great things to say about coach Hartman. My dad and mom (Charlotte) have been a huge part of my life, and of my success in the game of softball. My mom even took a job with my up-coming softball schedule in mind. She told them she needed off for all my games, and they were willing to work with her on that. And it meant a lot to me to have both of them there every time I hit the field.

“We had a pretty good fast pitch season, but we didn’t seem to have quite the turn-out in fans that we had in slo-pitch,” Derryberry said. “We had huge crowds for our slo-pitch season. I believe the community could sense how important the tradition is in Wilson.  I don’t think we disappointed them, even though we didn’t win state. We stayed high in the rankings all season, but lost a tough game at state in the quarterfinals. It’s a big goal for me, and the other girls on the team, that we get back to state next year and try to finish what we started this year.”

Derryberry believes the “want-to” had a huge effect on the Lady Eagles’ season and their great success in 2008.

“I believe we succeeded because everyone on our team wanted to win so badly,” Derryberry said. “We had eight seniors who provided great leadership. They supported and they led. Even the people on the bench did their jobs. Sometimes a player came in to pinch-hit or pinch-run. And everyone that contributed did all they could to help us be successful. No matter what their role, everyone supported in every way they possibly could.

“I was both nervous and excited to play at state,” Derryberry said. “It was a big dream of mine to go and play on that field up there. I had watched games at the Hall of Fame before. Now I was actually getting to go and play there. It would be a great experience nest year to have an opportunity to play there as catcher on my fast-pitch team and then go back in the spring as a pitcher and compete in slo-pitch for a title.”

Hartman appreciated the role Derryberry played and her willingness to step up every day and give her best effort.

“Megan was filling some big shoes when she moved to the pitching rubber,” Hartman said. “Joni White had been a solid performer for Wilson at that position before Megan got here, and she understood how important it was for our team to have a great pitcher in order to succeed. She showed up everyday. And she did everything me and coach (Claudia) LaBeth asked of her. She moved from catcher in fast pitch to pitcher in slo-pitch and never missed a beat. And she was the right person to move onto the pitching rubber in order for our team to enjoy the kind of success we had this season.”

Derryberry points to a great support group when giving credit for her success.

“Kristen, my sister, is five years older, and she played both fast-pitch and slo-pitch as well,” Derryberry said. “She was a great player, and she helped me develop a love for the game too. She worked with me and made me better. My dad (Jimmy) and mom (Charlotte) have been there for me all along.

“Coach Hartman was actually at Calera while I was there, and when we moved to Wilson he came along too,” Derryberry said. “That made it really exciting to have the same coach here as I did at Calera. The support I received from my family and the Wilson fans made it a fun year for me. And I’ll never forget the experiences I had with the great girls on our team. They made it exciting with their play in the field that made me, and our team, successful. This was a special season for all of us.”