In last week's Region 3-AAAA softball tournament, yet another opponent found trouble getting on base against Greenbrier pitcher Kassie Bailey. One by one, Lakeside's batters went down in order in the region championship game, and an anxious Lady Panthers mom eventually voiced her frustrations.
"It's not just Kassie. We can hit her. It's just that defense behind her," she said.
That's been the dominant opinion throughout the 2006 season. Though Bailey boasts a 21-6 record, her speed and strikeout numbers don't compare to past Greenbrier aces such as Kristan Glover and Austin Long. Bailey will be the first to say that one of the best defenses in Greenbrier history is behind her.
Lady Wolfpack head coach Garrett Black said none of that makes the junior pitcher any less talented.
"From a defensive standpoint, the ball is in play a little bit more, but look at the number of ground balls she's getting. It's because Kassie's drop is working," he said. "She's also got a change up that gives us a lot of lazy pop flies. Yeah, the defense is playing well, but Kassie still deserves a lot of credit."
The season has produced plenty of credit to go around. Greenbrier stands at No. 8 in the state rankings with a 28-6 record. The past four wins came at the Region 3-AAAA Tournament, where the Lady Wolfpack claimed their 11th consecutive region championship.
Bailey stood behind each of those wins, including shutout performances in the region semifinals and finals. In front of Bailey was her teammate and best friend: catcher Bethany Anderson.
Anderson wasn't a shoo-in to start at catcher at the beginning of the season. Black had planned to move All-State senior Tiffany Blackburn behind the plate. Instead, Anderson earned the spot.
"She put me in a position to where if I was going to do things fair, Bethany was supposed to be the one behind the plate," Black said. "Bottom line - she worked extremely hard in the weight room and out here at practice and earned it."
Blackburn has remained at her third base position this season and Anderson has solidified herself as the No. 1 starter behind the plate. It was only natural for a pitcher/catcher duo who have been friends since their days at Riverside Elementary School.
"We're best friends," Bailey said. "We played together our freshman year on JV."
They also got to know each other while watching their brothers play. Bailey's brother Chase was a pitcher on the Greenbrier junior varsity baseball team three years ago. The catcher he threw to was Anderson's brother Bobby. Now the girls have taken their place as two of Greenbrier's top pitcher and catcher combinations.
"They've both been very valuable to this team," Black said. "I'm really proud of both them. They've done everything we've asked them to do, and we've got them both back for another year."
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