Staff Photo: John Bohn Hebron softball pitcher Lyndi McCurry is helping her team to one of their best season starts. McCurry is seeking an athletic scholarship to Queens University of Charlotte, NC and Georgia College and State University.
It isn't often a single player can make such a big difference in a team sport the way pitcher Lyndey McCurry has done for Hebron Christian's softball program this fall.
That is especially true for a team like the Lions, who were already in good shape by returning no fewer than five key players from last year's team that advanced to the second round of the Class A state playoffs.
The addition of McCurry, who transferred to Hebron from Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens in the middle of last school year, has put the Lions (20-6) on the precipice of a higher level as they prepare to open up this year's postseason with a first-round best-of-three series with Georgia Military College on Wednesday in Milledgeville.
"She's been a difference-maker," Hebron coach LeAnn Mitchell said of McCurry. "We'd be a good team without her, but with her ... a dominant pitcher can make all the difference."
But as Mitchell would be the first to point out, the senior right-hander's value to the Lions goes beyond the numbers, impressive though they are -- an 18-5 record with a 0.24 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 149 innings, plus a .390 batting average -- and into much more intangible areas.
After being one of the primary pitchers for a Prince Avenue team that won 29 games and the Region 8-A title and advanced to the finals of the elimination bracket of the Class A state tournament a year ago, she provides valuable experience for a team seeking its first trip to Columbus.
"Yeah, I've been there before, and that does come with some responsibility," McCurry said. "And being a senior, I guess people naturally look to you for leadership. ... But a lot of the girls have also played travel ball, so they know (about what it takes to win). So, it's not too much of a burden."
The burden of which McCurry speaks is actually two-fold.
From an on-field standpoint, her responsibility has increased somewhat this season.
"Last year at Prince Avenue, we had two other pitchers, so I pitched in about half the games maybe," said McCurry, who has seen action in 23 of 26 games for Hebron this season. "So, (the work load) has been a little more strenuous this year, but I know how to keep myself in shape."
However, Mitchell agrees with McCurry that the acceptance of her teammates has helped ease her off-field leadership burden considerably.
"She's really blended well with the team," Mitchell said. "A lot of times, she doesn't say a lot, but you can tell they respond well to her."
For that, McCurry gives all the credit to the rest of the Lions, and how they have not only accepted her, but also made her part of the Hebron family.
"This year has been very fun -- the most fun year of my high school career," McCurry said. "They welcomed me right away. They've all been so sweet, it wasn't a hard (transition). We had a common bond."
That doesn't mean there haven't been some tough times emotionally for McCurry, with the toughest being facing her former Prince Avenue teammates twice this year, with Hebron posting victories of 10-0 and 13-2.
"Two of my best friends still play on Prince Avenue, so it was hard to pitch against them," McCurry admitted. "But at the same time, you want to win."
That competitive fire will be what fuels McCurry and the Lions as they try to make their way to Columbus, beginning with the doubleheader at GMC.
It's something McCurry said was strengthened when Hebron went through its toughest stretch of the season by losing four of five games during a tournament at North Cobb, but responded by winning six of its last seven games, including an impressive win over Lovett, the eighth-ranked team in the state in Class AA.
"We played a lot of bigger schools, and we lost three in a row," said McCurry, who will soon choose between college scholarship offers from Division I Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and Queens University in Charlotte, N.C. "The seniors kind of talked to everyone and then we went out and beat Lovett. That was such a big step for us.
"I know we can get to Columbus. We've got to do the little things. It takes all the basics to get there."