No matter the situation, but especially when the game’s on the line, there’s few players David Entrekin trusts more to get the job done than Sarah Ballard. More times than not, the Purvis softball standout has delivered for her coach and team, whether it’s inside the pitcher’s circle or the batter’s box.
Entrekin calls the junior a “bulldog”, and Ballard believes the title is fitting.
“If you know me, you know I’m a pretty aggressive person. I just don’t back down from anything,” she said. “You see it in practice and everybody thinks it’s funny, but I enjoy the game way too much to just sit back and let us lose.”
Purvis did a lot more winning than losing in 2019. In fact, the program captured its first division title in over a decade with a 5-2 win at Sumrall on April 16. Ballard was the winning pitcher in that game and in key division contests against Lawrence County and Poplarville earlier in the month that set the Lady Tornadoes up for the title.
In April, Ballard went 4-2 in the circle and struck out 27 batters in 41 innings of work.
“She always wants the ball,” Entrekin said. “The tougher the situation is, I think she wants the ball more. It’s always a good feeling when one of your top players, like Sarah, wants the ball in the middle of that pressure.”
Ballard and Gracey Baucom made up a potent 1-2 pitching punch for Purvis.
“Me and Gracey worked really hard at pitching this year,” Ballard said. “We knew we were gonna need that with a bunch of new people to the varsity defense.”
At the plate, Ballard adjusted to a hitting slump by transitioning from a slap-hitting approach to a traditional approach following minor toe surgery around the middle of the season. The switch paid big dividends in April as Ballard hit .464 with 13 RBI in the month.
“I love to slap, that’s my thing,” she said. “But I was dipping and didn’t wanna keep [the bat] going. I think it was all mentally in my head, and once we started switching over to hitting, it really just worked out in the end.”
All together, Ballard was a driving force behind the Lady Tornadoes (18-7) reaching the third round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“It was a great season,” Ballard said. “We did really good and beat teams we hadn’t beat the year before.
“And Coach Entrekin had not won a district title since the first year he started coaching, so that was a big deal. There were tears in my eyes when I saw him jumping up and down. I was so happy.”