Craft named Sports601 Softball Player of the Year for Jones, Jasper, and Smith County area

When Adam Case took over Raleigh’s softball program three years ago, those in the school familiar with Holly Craft’s abilities on the travel ball circuit suggested Case approach her about playing varsity. “Holly is a special kid,” said the softball head coach. “When I first got here, she wasn’t on the softball team. She was just starting her eighth-grade year, and a bunch of people here told me to go find her and talk to her about joining the team.”

Craft’s decision to play defined the program and helped bring about recent success. In 2017, as an eighth grader, Craft boasted a 1.64 ERA in 72 innings pitched and an 8-3 record. At the plate, she batted .357 with 20 hits and 20 RBI in 64 plate appearances. 

Every year since then has been an improvement. This past season, as a tenth-grader, Craft led Raleigh to its second straight Class 3A South State title series. She also held one of the lowest ERA in 3A, boasting a 1.96 earned run average in 121.1 innings pitched. Craft finished the season with a win-loss record of 15-2. The sophomore allowed 34 earned runs on 69 hits and struck out an impressive 197 batters. Opponents hit just .154 against her.

“She’s locked in on every single pitch,” said Case. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. She wants to win. Some players only seemed locked in during a rivalry, but for her every team, every game is a rivalry.”

“She and senior Alex Johnson was our one-two punch,” added Case. “Having that was critical. Holly throws a little bit harder, but having the both of them allowed us to go through the season [with success]. 

“Earlier in the season, Holly was involved in a wreck, and it put her out for a few games. A lot of teams only have one good pitcher, and situations like that would put a team down but Alex stepped right up, and we never missed a beat.”

Her contributions, though, weren’t one-sided. At the plate, Craft hit .422 in 93 appearances. She led the team in hits with 35 and second in RBI count with 26. Raleigh only had two home runs on the season as Craft supplied one of them. 

Craft said she enjoys being successful in the circle as well as at the plate.

“I know a lot of pitchers usually don’t hit,” said Craft. “But I wanted to do both well.”

The sophomore standout tossed a few shortened no-hit contest in a 15-0 win vs. Tylertown and a 13-0 playoff win vs. Columbia. 

Players excel better where the player-coach relationship is healthiest. Craft says she thankful for her head coach.

“He always believes in you,” said Craft. “He never doubts us. He always pushes us to be the best we can be.”

Craft is our Sports601 2019 Softball Player of the Year for the Jones, Jasper, and Smith County coverage area. 

Sports Editor

James is a graduate of Stringer High School and Jones County Junior College. He is an award-winning AP and MS Press photographer, writer, and layout designer.

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