LHS alumna gains speed at Chowan

Published 8:34 pm Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chowan University senior Shelby Pendleton struggled to gain traction in her softball career at college, but the Lakeland High School alumna has turned things around in her final year by developing a coachable spirit.

Despite a couple losses in the Hawks’ doubleheader last Monday against West Chester University, she played well, going 1-for-2 in game one and getting a hit and a run scored in game two. Against Bowie State University the day before, she went a combined 5-for-8 with five runs scored and three RBIs in two blowout wins.

Former Lakeland High School softball player Shelby Pendleton has proven her worth to the Chowan University softball team by way of her coach-ability and zeal to succeed.

Former Lakeland High School softball player Shelby Pendleton has proven her worth to the Chowan University softball team by way of her coach-ability and zeal to succeed.

After not playing much as an underclassman, Pendleton has started every game of her senior year and carried a .306 batting average into Saturday.

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“I’ve learned a lot here,” she said of Chowan. “I thought I knew everything, basically, before I got to college. I thought, ‘I know everything I could learn about softball and travel ball in high school,’ but I wasn’t even close to learning everything.”

She noticed a steep increase in expectation that Hawks head coach Amanda Balduf and her staff had for all the players on the team.

“So, we have to take initiative to go out there and do things on our own,” Pendleton said. “I never really did that in high school. I didn’t go out on my own and hit too much. I just did it at practice, but coaches expect a lot more out of you in college, and so you basically have to step up to the plate and do it.”

For Pendleton, stepping up and succeeding in college ball was going to require more of her than many players, because the batting style she was familiar with was not working.

“Her stats, if you look at the first three years, she didn’t really get a lot of at-bats,” Balduf said. “And when she did, she wouldn’t make contact.”

But toward the end of Pendleton’s junior season, Balduf recalled her playing around one day by hitting left-handed. Balduf liked what she saw and told her to go with it.

“I’m a right-handed hitter, but my coach turned me last year, because we just found out I’m a better slapper,” Pendleton said.

A slapper runs through the box while swinging to get an early start toward first base, and the player bats left-handed, by design, because it puts her closer to first to begin with. Pendleton always had great speed, so this technique played to her strength, and her batting average rose.

Balduf said that ever since the change, “I have her down in the nine-hole (of the batting order), and it creates a lot of speed because I’ve got another slapper at the top. So, she’s really, really been a bright spot for us this year.”

The coach also praised Pendleton for the game sense that she has cultivated at Chowan, enabling her to make good decisions on base that can turn singles into doubles and result in extra runs.

Pendleton said she has developed both boldness and patience and noted that “I play smarter now in college.”

“She really stuck with it, so I’m proud of her,” Balduf said.

The Hawks approached a trio of games this weekend with a 20-20 overall record and a 13-0 record in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The CIAA tournament begins on Thursday.