Alma softball player Kelsey Shepherd is quietly leading from behind the plate
With the new format for softball in the 5A West, Alma coach Charla Parrish knew she would need a strong player behind the plate.
This season, the Lady Airedales and the rest of the 5A West have doubleheaders for conference games and Kelsey Shepherd should be behind the plate as the catcher for each one.
"We're going to miss her from behind the plate (next year). She's really good at blocking," coach Charla Parrish said. "Kelsey's kind of a quiet leader for us. She's not going to say a lot, but she does lead by example by showing the younger players what needs to be done."
Shepherd played various positions over the past four years as the only four-year starter for the Lady Airedales. Of the five seniors for the team, she also recognizes, and embraces, her role.
"The other seniors are really vocal, and if that's what they want to do, they can have that job," Shepherd said. "I really am more of a quiet leader, I guess they would say. But if something comes up, and I need to be more vocal, I will."
Despite being described as a competitor by her mom, Felicia, and her teammates, though, Shepherd is struggling at the plate early on in the season. The Alma senior is just 4 of 19 but has a team-high six walks and has been hit by a pitch four times through the first eight games. Her on-base percentage is .483 and only Taelynn Perry's is higher (.519).
"You just got to keep pushing and work hard every day," Kelsey said. "The important thing is not to get down on me because I put it down on myself all the time. If you get a strikeout, get up there the next time and get a good hit."
Since the age of 5, Shepherd has played every position on the field, but she kept coming back to catcher.
Her father, Jason, said that Kelsey took some pitching lessons but "it didn't stick." The senior has also worked with other catchers from other teams teaching them about the ins and outs of the role.
But the end of this season will bring the end of a long journey for her and her parents. One they are not looking forward to saying goodbye to. Kelsey has no immediate plans to play college softball but is planning to go into nursing.
"Most likely, this will be it for me. It's heartbreaking to say that," Kelsey said. "I have no idea what my parents are going to do."
Alma returns to the field on March 29 to host Waldron and is back on the road the next day for another 5A West doubleheader at Siloam Springs.
"We hate for it to be over. It's all we've done all these summers," Felicia Shepherd said. "I might have to find someone to adopt and follow them around to all their games."