Evans High School softball coach Colette Cassedy devised a method a couple of seasons ago for choosing which of her two standout pitchers would take the field against certain teams.
When Jenny Shepherd and Laura Brown were on the Knights' roster, it was the only way to distinguish them.
Cassedy would have each player come up with a word that described why they wanted to pitch.
Shepherd, then a sophomore, would come back with "Win," and hold out her hand for the ball.
"When she goes on the field, it's like a switch goes on," Cassedy said of Shepherd, who accepted a scholarship last week to play for Northwest Florida State College. "You might not notice it so much at practices. The mind-set before a game, you'd think they'd be focused. When she steps on the field, I can't explain it."
That competitiveness is what drew Raiders coach Jack Byerley. He watched Shepherd play on a tip from a University of Alabama coach at a travel ball tournament the summer before Shepherd's senior year.
Shepherd grew up a fan of the University of Alabama and wants to one day play for the Crimson Tide. Her path takes her to Florida first.
"She's got to work two more years to get to that next level," Byerley said. "Even though she's got everybody waiting for her."
Said Shepherd: "I feel like the junior college route is what's best for me. I can go down there and get my grades up and then try to do the D-I thing."
One thing is certain: Shepherd wants to pitch. Her competitiveness was on display when the Knights faced some of the top hitters from the area.
Cassedy does not have her pitchers intentionally walk batters, but she might ask them to be wary and pitch away from the bigger bats.
"Jenny, she doesn't even like doing that," Cassedy said. "If it's a good batter, she wants to strike her out. It's just a competition."
Shepherd was a Class AAAA All-State selection and also was named Region 3-AAAA's top pitcher. The accolades came even after Shepherd missed six weeks following surgery to repair torn cartilage in her knee.
She returned in time for the region tournament and helped lead the Knights to their second consecutive region title.
"You could tell she wanted to come back," Cassedy said of Shepherd's recovery. "I don't think she was too happy with me not putting her right back in."
Shepherd said her knee is better than it's ever been, and is taking a break from travel ball to help ensure it stays healthy before she heads to Florida.
The Raiders have a reputation as one of the top junior college programs, especially for preparing players academically for a move to a Division I school, where Shepherd hopes to land. Cassedy and Byerley both agree she has the talent to get there.
"There's no doubt," Cassedy said. "She has the ability to play at that level. And I think she would be successful."
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