When a fly ball takes a trajectory toward the Mountain Pointe outfield Pride coach Mel Wendell can relax.
She has four-year starter Holly Phillips covering a lot of ground between the infield and outfield fence.
“You start to think, ‘Oh, no,’ and then Holly gets there,” Wendell said. “She has so much speed that you know she’s going to be on it.”
That speed is part of the reason the Pride senior also bats in the lead-off spot for the Pride and she learned to abandon her natural instinct to switch from the right side of the plate to the left.
“I worked on switch-hitting in middle school because of the speed,” Phillips said. “You get that extra step that helps you get to first base quicker. It seems pretty natural to me now.”
Her younger brother plays baseball and is a left-handed hitter.
“That may have had something to do with it, too,” she added.
Phillips is one of five left-handed batters on the Pride team and three of them are switch-hitters.
It’s more than the four years on the Pride varsity team that makes Phillips a veteran. She has been playing the game since she was 3 and is also involved in club softball.
“I was really nervous my freshman year because I was a freshman competing against senior pitchers and that makes a huge difference from playing against freshman pitchers,” she said.
Phillips has also taken advantage of hitting left-handed as a lead-off hitter for the Pride.
“I think every batter has their own pressure, but I really enjoy leading off,” she explained. “You get to start the game and if the second batter gets a hit the whole game goes well.”
This season pitchers have been moved back to 43 feet from the plate instead of 40 and Phillips said those few feet can make a difference at the plate.
“It makes a huge difference,” she said. “Last year a lot of pitchers could dominate the game at 40 feet, but at 43 feet they’re hittable. It gives you more time to see the ball and react to it. But there are still a lot of pitchers who are able to hit the inside or outside of the plate.”
With her years of experience, Wendell is confident in having Phillips lead off.
“She has developed skills as a lead-off hitter over the years,” Wendell said. “She can bunt or she can hit a triple, and she’s had more than a handful of those since she’s been here.”
The Pride coach has also given Phillips a rare green light to steal when she is on the bases.
“She knows when she needs to go and when she has to stop,” Wendell said. “She has that experience, so you don’t have to tell her.”
Phillips also has some sliding saving. Wendell recalled a time this season when Phillips looked like she would be out at home but was able to get around the catcher and get her hand on the plate.
Phillips explains that stealing is a matter of learning the tendencies of a catcher.
“You get to know the catcher and what they like to do,” Phillips said. “I know the catcher from Basha from club and she’s amazing. You don’t steal on her.”
Phillips isn’t the only thing fast on the Pride team. The regular season wraps up this week and the state 5A-I double-elimination tournament begins Saturday.
“This is the fastest the season has seemed to go since I’ve been here,” Phillips said. “And I think a lot of that is that everyone bonded, looked forward to games and did a lot more activities like fundraisers.”