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Lady Dogg takes her talents to Cleveland

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POSTED: July 30, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Winder alum Erin Harbin will play college softball this spring.

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The Lady Bulldoggs of Winder-Barrow High School will get their softball season started soon with aspirations of following up the greatest season ever in Winder softball history. One young woman who had a big part in that team’s success is Winder alum Erin Harbin.

Harbin had 27 hits in 72 at-bats during her senior season for the Lady Doggs with five doubles and one triple, along with four stolen bases, all of which amounted to 19 runs and 15 RBIs. Behind the plate, Harbin took six walks and just eight strikeouts with a stellar .375 batting average.

“It’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done in high school,” Winder-Barrow graduate and former softball player said of her senior season. “It was the best part of high school for me. 

“It was fun getting to start that off, and maybe they’ll keep doing it,” Harbin noted.

“She’s versatile. She can pitch, she can play second. I asked her to play first base last year in a game. I think Erin could play anywhere she wanted to,” Winder-Barrow varsity softball coach Monty McClure explained. “She’s a good hitter. From that perspective, we’re going to miss her bad.

“Her talent is good. Her pitching, along with her timely hitting, is really what got us to Columbus.”

As part of the 2013 Lady Doggs, Harbin and five other seniors helped lead the team to their first ever appearance in the Elite Eight of the state softball tournament down in Columbus. 

Harbin was truly a leader on the 2013 team as one of the strongest seniors and one of the team’s veterans, and that was a role she took to heart and enjoyed living up to.

“I like to be the person that somebody can rely on. I like the feeling knowing that somebody trusts me to kind of lead others and it makes me feel good to know that I’ve done what I needed to do to get to that point,” Harbin said.

“She holds her teammates accountable,” McClure added. “She pulls for them. She’s a great teammate who leads by example. I think she’s really taught our seniors the right way to lead. Just being able to pass down the appropriate way of leading, I can really see it this summer how it’s already being done.”

Harbin gravitated to softball early in life because of her brother’s love for baseball.

“It was just kind of what I knew,” Harbin explained.

Ever since then, she has been a successful softball player and has made quite a name for herself.

Softball is so much a part of Harbin’s life that she currently intends on keeping it there as long as she can. Although Harbin is just getting ready to start college later in August, she hopes to one day be a history teacher and a softball coach.

“I’d like to coach one day, so I want to keep my relationship with Winder-Barrow there as a back door,” Harbin admitted. “I could maybe help Coach McClure some if he allowed me.”

As far as McClure is concerned, he’d be quite alright with that.

“I hope she comes back to Winder as my assistant,” McClure acknowledged.

“She has the right temperament. Her temperament is pretty even keel the whole time. She keeps her emotions in check,” McClure explained. “As far as coaching goes, that’s one of the most important things you can do. If you’re asking me she’d be a great coach just because of her demeanor and how she carries herself. People listen to her. They respect her.”

The Lady Dogg alum will be playing for the nearby Truett-McConnell College softball team this spring after accepting a scholarship offer last season. 

While softball is a fall sport in high school, Harbin and her fellow Bears will have to wait until January to really hit the field with their coaching staff.

“I’m doing summer workouts and we have a little short fall season,” Harbin admitted. “In the division I’m in, you only have so much time with a coach during this part of the season, but then once it kicks off you’re allowed to do more.

“We’re allowed to do our own thing, but it really starts up in the spring,” Harbin added. “I’m just ready to play at that level and see what it’s like.”

The college freshman will play mostly second base for Truett-McConnell, although she did spend a considerable amount of time playing other positions in high school. Harbin rotated between second and short, but she also pitched.

While the two infield positions are strikingly similar to each other, pitching is a whole other animal.

“Pitching makes you just game up a little more. With pitching you have a little more pressure on you. You can’t walk people and expect to get outs. You have to let them hit the ball and let people do stuff behind you,” Harbin mentioned.

In fact, one of Harbin’s favorite memories from her high school career stems from time spent on the mound. In order to advance to the Elite Eight in Columbus, Winder-Barrow had to beat Paulding County in their house and on their field. 

“I struck out the last batter,” Harbin said. “Beating Paulding to get into the Elite Eight was my favorite memory.”

In the end, though, the Lady Doggs were able to pull it off and make it to Columbus for the first time ever.

While Harbin’s bat and occasional pitching was a part of that incredible run, she also made sure to highlight the team’s timing and cohesion late in the season as a primary factor in their collective success.

“A coach at the region banquet talked about how, for a team to get there, it requires a little luck and peaking at the right time,” Harbin explained. “You have to get a good draw on the teams you play to get to the Elite Eight and just getting together as a team.

“You can have a terrible first part of the season, but you have to peak at the right time. I think we did what we needed to when we needed to,” Harbin mentioned.

Another aspect of Winder’s success was that they played some of the best teams in the state as region competition. Region 8-AAAAA was the only region to see all four teams make it out of the first round of the state tournament and one of the few to send two teams to the Elite Eight. 

“I think that’s good because that way you don’t get any slack. That way you build up to better teams and when you get to play easier teams you’re thinking you’ll walk all over them,” Harbin laughed.

Now that Harbin is a student-athlete at the college level, it would be easy for her to forget high school and Winder altogether, but that is far from her heart. 

On the contrary, honestly, Harbin still remembers having to say goodbye at the end of the school year and at the team’s end-of-the-year banquet last fall.

“It was hard. It’s still hard,” Harbin acknowledged.

Beyond sad feelings, even, she hopes to come back and support her former team and her county whenever possible.

“I went to the first summer league game, that was it, but I’m planning on going back when they play Apalachee on Aug. 19,” Harbin mentioned. “I think I’m going to go to that because I have a friend who plays at Apalachee and she’s a senior, so I was going to go watch that. I’m going to try and stay in contact for a while.” 

Harbin is beginning a new journey with Truett-McConnell, but she will do so while keeping an even closer connection with Winder-Barrow. She is keeping in touch with Lady Bulldogg golfer and future Truett-McConnell athlete Courtney Grovogel as her roommate. 

The roommate situation works well for Harbin who admits that she still holds some hesitancy about college. This way, though, she can enjoy a little of the old school while spending time at the new school.

“That way I can keep somebody there that I know,” Harbin admitted. “I don’t like change at all, so I like having somebody I know. And I like softball, but that way I can take a break.

“I’m just looking forward to playing softball and the whole college thing.”

Harbin will start her softball season with Truett-McConnell College in February of 2015. But, if Harbin and McClure have their way, she may well one day be back with Winder-Barrow as a coach. 


 

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