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Join the club - Higgs continues path to Iona for Heartbreakers

April 30, 2001

Join the club - Higgs continues path to Iona for Heartbreakers



By DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

This most certainly was not the plan that Alison Higgs had in mind three years ago.

In the spring of 1998, Higgs was just a freshman, enjoying the ride as South Hagerstown was bull-rushing the field on its way to a runner-up finish in the Class 1A softball tournament. The left-hander was a gung-ho right fielder with a great view of pitchers Stacey Zeger and Tia Waltemire and plenty of time to make her own name as another big bat in the Rebels lineup.

Then Zeger and Waltemire graduated. Suddenly, there wasn't anyone else to watch on the mound.

"I told her after that tournament, 'You know what we need now? It's a pitcher,'" South coach Sabrina McCoy said.

"And I hated it," Higgs said. "I can remember that they almost had to pull me out there to do it."

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McCoy, however, remembers the story a little different.

"She had the skills to play anywhere, but once we wanted her to pitch, she went to a camp anywhere she could find one," McCoy said. "And now she is what she is now."

Now, Higgs is a senior, arguably the best pitcher in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League and the fourth member of the Heartbreakers Softball Club to sign a letter of intent with Division I Iona College in the last two years.

"It's just awesome," Higgs said. "I'm so excited. A couple of years ago, I'm playing against Walkersville and Amy Burdette, and I could never imagine I could play at the level of a player like her. ... And now I get to spend another year or two with her."

Just getting to that point was a big enough step for Higgs. Burdette was The Herald-Mail's Player of the Year in 1999, hurling the Lions to a state championship that spring. Her dad, Terry, is the coach of the Heartbreakers, and he was a first-hand witness in the transformation of a young left-handed right fielder into a deadly force on the pitching rubber.

You're a pitcher?


"I only met her about two years ago after a game," Terry Burdette said. "I had never met her before, but she looked impressive for a young player. Her stepdad (Larry) asked what she should do. We said she should get on a travel team."

So Higgs joined the Heartbreakers, making the club's "B" team after her sophomore season. Higgs also learned her craft under Hagerstown Community College assistant Missy Kesecker, who kept pushing Higgs along.

"She kept saying that I could do this, that yes, yes, I had the potential to be a good pitcher," Higgs said.

Higgs showed that potential, making the Heartbreakers' main team after her junior season at South Hagerstown, where she went 8-9 for the Rebels. However, she was only the No. 4 pitcher behind a stacked lineup: Burdette, who signed with Iona out of high school, Jill Hood, the Middletown graduate now throwing for Shepherd College, and current Frederick High ace Candy Warden.

It didn't matter in the least. The big club was the big club.

"I couldn't guarantee her any time, and at the least, I knew it would make her better for South High," Terry Burdette said. "Our pitchers come to practice about 45 minutes early ... and she's the first one there and worked her tail off, despite no guarantees. Until the PONY nationals last summer, she'd only been in three games all season."

Opportunity knocks


The Heartbreakers had a heck of a summer in 2000. Burdette, Hood and Warden hurled the team into the national tournament, but Hood was involved in a car accident just before the finals in Virginia Beach and could not make the trip. While Burdette and Warden could carry most of the load, Higgs was really needed now.

She responded by throwing her team right into the national title picture, winning a second-round and quarterfinal game.

"We needed that third pitcher, and she stepped up and pitched two awesome games, back to back," Terry Burdette said.

"That's what impressed (Iona coach Andrea Farquhar). To see her do that in that situation. I knew she could do it. The greatest thing was that she worked that hard ... and waited for her opportunity."

Even though opportunity stood at the door and waited for a second before knocking.

"At the beginning of the year, Terry thought I had a really good chance to go (to Iona)," Higgs said. "And then I didn't talk to them for awhile and I thought, 'Oh no, I messed up.' And then she got back to me and it was all OK."

"The thing you pick up from Alison is that she just wants to play," Farquhar said. "I don't think I saw her pitch till nationals ... but they went to her late in the playoffs. That impressed me. And she got the wins. If she's new and already that confident ... well, that's a good thing."

As a coach, it's a better thing to have a bunch of players like that. Farquhar has that, too.

New What?, New York


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