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VHSCA All-Star Game
Hudgins helps East to 3-2 softball win
By NORM WOOD | firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWPORT NEWS -- In her days as Mathews High's ace pitcher, Melissa Hudgins would've spent an hour analyzing the sixth inning of Thursday's 3-2 win by the East All-Stars in the Virginia High School Coaches Association all-star softball game.
Hudgins pitched three innings, giving up three hits and one unearned run while striking out two and walking two. She gave up all three hits and the run in the sixth. Her effort amounted to a solid, unspectacular outing on a lazy summer morning in a game with no official stats to pad or diminish career achievements, but the sixth inning at Christopher Newport University would've been a much bigger deal in high school.
It would've meant breaking down each batter she faced pitch-by-pitch with her dad, Chris, and checking out what went right and what she could've improved. Hudgins, who will play softball at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, lives for that kind of attention to detail.
"After a game, we'd always go in the garage and work on things," said Hudgins, who finished her high school career with a 3.0 grade point average and a 63-14 pitching record with 679 strikeouts. "That's how I would get better."
Of course, the batting cage and pitching machine she had set up in the backyard throughout high school also had a lot to do with getting better. She can't wait to begin 6 a.m. running exercises in the fall at Virginia Intermont because she said it won't be any more difficult than the workouts she went through with her dad.
"She was always willing to put the work into it," Chris said. "It was something she wanted to do because she had goals she wanted to reach. She wanted to play in college and nothing was going to stop her."
Hudgins, 17, played in travel ball leagues since she was 12 years old with some of the area's top talent from Group AA and AAA schools, like Gloucester's Stephanie Coates, New Kent's Laura Bauer, Becca Mills and Kayla Timberlake, Warwick's Virginia King, Grafton's Kinsley Seward and others. Still, in her junior year, Hudgins started to worry that playing for a Group A school like Mathews (421 enrolled students, according to the Virginia High School League) might be limiting her exposure to college coaches.
Her desire to play college softball inspired her to gather some of her highlights captured on video and send them off to 22 colleges. She received acceptance letters from 10 colleges, including Chowan, Mary Baldwin, Randolph-Macon, Liberty and Eastern Mennonite. She decided to go to Virginia Intermont because the school offered her $68,000 in grant money, which significantly eases the financial burden of a college that will cost more than $100,000 to attend for four years.
"I think they have two other pitchers (at Virginia Intermont), but they said I'll probably get some playing time (as a freshman)," said Hudgins, who wants to teach physical education and coach softball in high school or college. "It's going to be hard at first, but after a while, I know it'll be fine."
Though Hudgins wasn't overpowering Thursday, she still had a big hand in the East victory with her relief pitching. Hudgins, who was first team Group A All-State as a sophomore and second team all-state this past season, didn't allow a runner past first base in the fourth and fifth innings.
Grafton's Stephanie Strother helped the East take a 1-0 lead in the second when she scored from third. The East was clinging to a 3-1 lead going into the ninth inning, but the West cut the deficit to one when Stephanie St. Peter scored on a fielding error by shortstop Brittany Melton. The West proceeded to put runners on second and third with no outs before pitcher Brittany Blankenship bounced back to strike out the next three batters and end the game.
EAST 3, WEST 2
East 002 000 001 – 3 3 3
West 000 001 001 – 2 5 2
WP – Raulerson. LP – A. Smith. SV – Blankenship. Standouts – West, Williams 2-3 (one run). MVPs – East, Burkholder; West, Spitzer.
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