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2014 June 23 - 04:43 am

Once a ‘Slapper,’ Now a Slugger

Southern Union State Student Named Alabama’s Top Community College Athlete

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Courtney Shields came to Southern Union State Community College as a slapper and left as the most decorated softball player in program history.

“I slapped since seventh grade,” Shields said, referring to the technique of “slapping” at the ball like a bunt from the lefthanded batter’s box. “I had slapped until my senior year (of high school). I started to kind of hit from the left side, but I was never a power hitter.

“And then last year, when I got to Southern Union, it all changed and I became a power hitter.”

In her two years on the

Waverly campus, Shields became the holder of every softball offensive record at the school except for home runs and runs scored.

In her final season, the sophomore from Columbiana was named a first-team NJCAA All- American and won the Region 22 Marucci Elite Hitter Award, both program firsts. She also led the Bison to a Region 22 championship, a 54-8 overall record and a 12th-place ranking in the final NJCAA poll, leading her to be named the Alabama Sports Writers Association Community College Player of the Year.

“She is an unbelievable kid, first and foremost,’’ Southern Union head coach Brian Pittman said. “She’s just a leader, not only in the way she goes about it on the field but just off the field as well, being an example for the younger kids.

“She had a monster year, there’s no doubt about that.”

Shields, who will be playing at North Alabama next season, finished her final year at SUSCC in the top five nationally in five offensive categories, including No. 1 in hits with 111. She was also third in RBIs (88), third in total bases (182), fourth in triples (9) and fifth in batting average (.514).

“I had a really good year and I am very proud,” Shields said. “I didn’t think I would do as well as I did. So to have such a great year was pretty awesome.”

Shields was moved to the third spot in the lineup this year, which was another new experience for her.

“I think she stepped into that role and really thrived in the moment,” Pittman said. “She felt like her teammates depended on her and she delivered every time she needed to this year. She’s the one who came up big for us all year long.

“I think she really did a good job of being able to say (to her team), ‘Get on my back, get on my shoulders right here, and I’m going to lead you.’” For Shields, her approach is simple.

“Just a lot of hard work and keeping a good attitude,” she said. “Even if I had bad days, I didn’t let it get to me. I just realized it was a game of failure and just kept going.”

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