All-Area Team: Samantha Yarbrough and Robert Rollan named player and coach of the year
Published 3:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The Pike Lady Patriots went through many ups and downs throughout the 2016 softball season, but the play of Samantha Yarbrough and the leadership of head coach Robert Rollan helped carry them to the state AISA tournament.
Because of that, the pair was named the All Metro player and coach of the year for 2016.
Yarbrough was the quintessential team player for the Patriots, according to Rollan. She led the team with 15 homeruns, but it was her willingness to do anything to help make the team better that made her special.
The power hitting third baseman and pitcher played in 50 ball games and wracked up 56 hits in 125 at bats, which is good enough for a .400 batting average. She finished with 50 RBIs on the season and she walked 26 times, compared to just seven strikeouts.
It was her willingness to take free bases that helped set up her teammates in the middle of the lineup.
“As much as she wanted to, Sam never forced anything,” Rollan said. “There were times when she got frustrated because she knew teams were throwing around her. She took her walks. She did what she needed to do from a team standpoint.
“She was willing to let the girls behind her swing the bat. That was one of the things that I liked about her.”
Yarbrough may have been her most valuable on defensive side of the ball as a pitcher. Yarbrough appeared in 26 ballgames as pitcher and compiled 146 innings pitched. She finished the year with a 12-10 and finished with 217 strikeouts.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without her,” Rollan said.
In the early part of the season Yarbrough had to battle a bruise on her pitching elbow. Since pitcher Bailey Rushing was also injured, Yarbrough battled through the pain and logged important innings for the Patriots pitching staff.
“She rehabbed the elbow and kept pitching through it,” Rollan said. “She made adjustments all through the year and she just never stopped. There were times when she wasn’t full speed and went out there.”
With the season on the line, Yarbrough stepped up for the Patriots in the state tournament in Montgomery. With Rushing not able to pitch, Yarbrough stepped up and pitched all but 1 2/3 innings during a four game span while in Montgomery. She pitched in all seven innings against Lee Scott, Glenwood and Hooper and pitched 5 1/3 innings against Autauga.
“That says a lot about her,” Rollan said. “We felt really good coming out of the region … We got into the game against Hooper and you could tell that something wasn’t quite right with Sam.”
Rollen was forced to take his pitcher out of the game in favor of Amanda Finlayson. After arriving on the mound, Yarbrough expressed her disappoint in her outing.
“She came up to me and just said I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong but I’m sorry,” Rollen said. “I told her I thought it was because she didn’t eat. I think she ate and we put Sam back on the mound she was a different girl. That was the difference in the ball game.”
It’s moments like that that has a made Yarbrough a true leader on her team.
“Every team has its bell cow,” Rollen said. “She is one of them and everybody follows them. When a bell cow does that, that is what your teammates are going to do.”
Every team needs a good leader, and that is exactly what the Patriots received in their head coach. In his first season, Rollen demanded an energy level out his players. He expected that energy level from his players from day one and last until the final day of the season and his players did just that for him.
“These girls came to practice and showed up and got better,” Rollan said. “They were a different team on day one than they were at the end of the year. They never complained.”
At the beginning of the season Rollan gave an unlikely analogy to his players.
“I told them softball is kind of like golf,” Rollan said. “I told them there will be a lot of teams out there that will drive to show, but they won’t putt for dough. I told them we are going to putt for dough.”
The Patriots headed his message and started to slowly get better and that continued well into the season.
“I told them that at the end of the season, we will be putting for a million dollars,” Rollen said. “That was our goal. We wanted to go out there and do the same thing everyday.”
Rollen also told the players they were going to get better by taking ground balls and taking swings in the cages.
“That’s what we did,” Rollen said. “That was the difference this year. We came out everyday and we practiced. “
Joining Yarbrough on the Messenger All Area Team are infielders: Sydney Armstrong and Tucker Earls from Charles Henderson, Hannah Calhoun from Goshen and Catcher Lakin Maulden of Pike County. The outfielders consisted of Ivey Amlong from Zion Chapel, Carmen Kelly of Goshen and Kayla Dendy of Pike Liberal Arts. Four pitchers were named in Emma Kirkpatrick from Charles Henderson, Brooke Bennett from Pike County, Bailey Rushing from Pike Liberal Arts and Billie Copeland from Zion Chapel.