Practice makes perfect for Harrell|Williamston slugger named WDN Co-Player of the Year

Published 1:20 am Saturday, June 26, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Allen Iverson once asked the question, “How can I make my teammates better by practicing.” If the hoops legend would have spent some time in Williamston this season he might have found the answer.
Cassie Harrell, the vocal leader and star second baseman on the Williamston softball team, craved practice.
Harrell routinely ran out grounders, dived for line drives and worked on her technique every chance she got. As a result, the surrounding players picked up on her intensity; her love for the game became infectious.
Instead of just a few players going hard every day, the whole team knew it better work as hard as its leader. The intense practice sessions paid off this year for Harrell and the Tigers as they made their first ever trip to the NCHSAA 1-A state tournament.
Harrell finished the year with a .406 batting average, while driving in a team-leading 24 runs. The gaudy stats, combined with her clutch hits, made the Williamston slugger the perfect choice for the Washington Daily Co-Player of the Year.
Harrell split the honor with Northside shortstop Amanda Daw, another player whose passion for the game was on display nightly.
Williamston coach Damon Hayes said Harrell’s effort on the diamond was critical to his team’s 18-7 record and fourth place finish in the state.
“When they see Cassie into it, they get into it,” Hayes said. “When they see her miss a ground ball and get mad you can just tell there is a difference in practice once that happens.
“She is very competitive, but at the same time she is always hollering ‘Let’s do this, or let’s do that. More ground balls coach.’ When you have a young team that’s what you need because then the other players are saying ‘I want more ground balls too.’”
A good team leader is a vocal one, a great team leader can back it up when it counts, and Harrell did that on several occasions this year.
In this postseason alone Harrell had several big hits, most notably an inside-the-park home run in the second round of the playoffs against Jamesville, and an RBI, game-tying triple against three-time conference champions Southside in the Sectional Round of the playoffs.
Harrell said both the 5-2 extra-inning win over Jamesville, along with the 4-2 victory over Southside ranked as her best moments of the season.
“Beating Jamesville is definitely up there,” Harrell said. “Also beating Southside was big. They swept us in the regular season and we had to go to their place and fight them and show them that we really wanted it.”
Hayes felt that Harrell’s clutch hits changed the complexion of both games.
“In the Jamesville game I thought we started out not as talkative or into it as we should have been. I thought we were a little tight. Maybe that was because of the situation (Williamston is merging with Jamesville to form the Riverside Knights),” Hayes said. “But when she hit that bomb I thought it changed us. All of a sudden we were like ‘Okay, we’re going to be okay.’
“The second one was at Southside. When she hit that triple; it was big and changed the momentum of the game.”
The key for Harrell in clutch situations is that she treats the at-bat as if it were any other.
“I don’t really focus any harder,” Harrell said. “I just take as another pitch, or another at-bat, and try to do what I would do in any other situation.”
Harrell, who also was helped the Tigers’ basketball team reach the state championship game, will graduate Williamston High School and play hoops at Brunswick C.C.
Though she will make the change from cleats to sneakers, her attitude towards preparation will remain the same.
“I would describe my style as ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes in order for my team to win,’” Harrell said.
Looks like practice made perfect.