Elkin assistant softball coach Steve Shaw said the Elkin High School program is now showing the results of efforts that go back “five or six years.”
The Elks, who entered yesterday’s first-round playoff game with a record of 14-8, claimed four spots on the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference team; the player of the year; the coach of the year; and placed a player on the MVAC all-tournament team.
Shaw said the success is in part due to former coach Jill Miller (now Jill Wood.)
“She really pushed to get me and Coach (Billy) Palmer in there,” Shaw said. “She wanted to make sure the program was left in good hands.”
Palmer, Shaw said, started one of the first travel teams in the area — the Rebels in Yadkin County. Palmer and Shaw would go on to found the Carolina Extreme.
Shaw said it was important for Palmer to start recruiting girls from the Elkin area if the high school program was going to be successful.
“The rest is history,” Shaw said. Current Elkin sophomore Kirstan Beaver was one of the first recruits,” he added. “When we started pulling talent from the Elkin area,” Shaw said, “we were winning two games and being the laughingstock.
“Now we’ve got Rebekah (Cranford) and Cayley and Bethany and Kirstan named all-conference. One’s player of the year (Shoemaker) and we’ve got the coach of the year (Palmer).
“Cayley’s been our ace on the mound,” Shaw said. “I’ve been working with her since she was four- or five-years-old. She’s coachable. She listens.”
Shaw said Shoemaker, his niece, is good at shaking off adversity and moving on. “She’s probably her own worst critic,” Shaw said. “She expects for the weight of the world to be on her shoulders.
“No kid has put in more work than she has.”
Shoemaker was rewarded last week with the conference’s most valuable player award. Coaches, Shaw said, nominate their players and then make a case for them. He said he acknowledged that other players were deserving as well, but added that only Shoemaker had been part of a “360-degree turnaround” and only Shoemaker,who will graduate next month, had a weighted GPA pushing 5.0.
“That says it all,” Shaw said.
Cranford, a junior, also was named to the MVAC all-tournament team.
“Rebekah has been rock solid. She’s been consistent. She has saved more games for us at first base. It’s amazing how far she’s come. First base has been a sore spot for us.”
Of Turner, Shaw said, “Her bat has struggled. Nonetheless, she’s been a leader behind the plate; an extremely good captain; a four-year starter; a backbone to this program.”
Turner is a senior. “She leaves some awfully big shoes to fill,” Shaw said.
Of Beaver, Shaw said, “She thinks she’s not supposed to strike out or make an error. One of the most natural softball players I’ve ever seen.”
Beaver, the shortstop, has been pushed into a leadership role this season. “We knew what kind of a ballplayer she was,” Shaw said. “We needed her to start talking to her teammates.
“We know we are losing Cayley and Bethany.”
In addition, Shaw said, Sarah Cudd and Kaitlin Faw received honorable mention.
“For that to happen at Elkin High School,” Shaw said. “We’ve been the whipping post for so long.
“I’m extremely proud of each and every kid who’s given their hearts to this program; the fans; the parents.”
Shaw added that the school and the recreation department have been giving them help also in the way of field improvements.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @elkinareasports.