By Mike KeatingMkeating@the-review.com
After 40 straight losses dating back to the second tournament game of her sophomore season, Andrews and the Lady Trojans experienced the thrill of victory. Being in the center of the action as a left-handed pitcher, Andrews pitched Sebring to an 8-4 win at Leetonia.
Her contribution to the win, which included seven strikeouts, was recognized internally. The coaches presented her the game ball, which moved her emotionally. Andrews not only contributed as a pitcher and hitter, but her leadership and positive attitude helped the Lady Trojans become more competitive and take a step forward. For her play and leadership on a team which needed encouragement and any type of positive feedback as it developed, Andrews was selected The Review Female Athlete of the Week.
Sebring first-year head coach Jason Whaley, who watched the Lady Trojans from afar when they went 0-23 last season, observed Andrews pitch from a closer vantage point on a daily basis this season and saw a more polished talent.
Andrews identified with Jackson because she started out as a high school catcher. She often worked with Sydney Smith, who is two years older and was a standout pitcher for the Lady Trojans during her four-year high school career.
It was a learning experience for Andrews, the rest of her teammates and a first-year head coach. They all were inexperienced, going through a learning curve together while playing several high-level teams in the final year of the Inter-Tri County League. The result was a 0-23 season, with none of the games extending beyond the fifth inning.
Andrews and many of her teammates returned. Whaley was named the new head coach and the Lady Trojans moved into the new Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference, which became even stronger with the addition of Waterloo, a formidable softball program.
“I’ve always been an optimistic person,” Andrews recalled. “I know we had lost a lot of games, but I also saw how much better we became this year. I had good teammates who worked hard to get better and helped (support) me when I pitched.”
Freshman Emma Whaley, one of those new teammates, also helped remove some of the pitching load.
Andrews plans to attend Bowling Green State University this fall, majoring in speech pathology. She relishes the next chapter of her life, but admits she’ll miss playing high school softball and being part of a team on the rise.
“Coach Whaley has changed the culture of the program,” she said. “We put in more time working on becoming better fundamentally and he created a team atmosphere. We had a lot of players improve in one year and I can see the team going forward in the next two years.”