To the plate

Shelby Brown was a Southside All-District pitcher for Park View HS. (Dennis Smith)

(With Park View High School slated to merge with Bluestone HS to form the new Mecklenburg County HS in 2022, the Brunswick Times-Gazette and the South Hill Enterprise are running an ongoing series that looks back at some of the outstanding athletes and coaches and their stories through the years.)

Bluestone High School varsity softball coach Shelby Brown was a tough customer on the mound as a number of Southside District opponents found out during her playing days at Park View High School.

Brown, who graduated in 2009, was an All-District performer for the Lady Dragons in volleyball and softball.

Brown was lights-out in the circle in her senior campaign, pitching three straight shutouts late in the season, including earning a 9-0 victory over Greensville when she allowed only two hits while recording seven strikeouts.

She was named to the Southside All-District team at pitcher that season for the third time in her career and was also named to the All-Region team for the second time.

She said one of her favorite memories actually came on the base paths in her senior season in a scoreless extra innings contest against Nottoway.

“Coach (John) Manning wanted to put in a pinch runner for me. I knew I wasn’t the fastest runner but I told him to just trust me” she said with a laugh. “I was able to get to third on a bunt and I scored and we beat them, 1-0.”

Brown had some great pitching duels on the mound that season with Lauren Myers from Nottoway and Hollie Crickenberger from Bluestone.

All three pitchers would end up facing each other at the collegiate level in the same conference as Brown went on to pitch at Pfeiffer, Myers went to Limestone, and Crickenberger went to Lees-McRae.

Brown said Powhatan High School was the hurdle the Lady Dragons could not get over in her high-school years as the Lady Indians captured numerous Southside District titles during that era.

“We were always second behind them,” she said. “In my junior year we had them beat until the seventh inning when they scored on an error to win the game.”

She said another vivid memory for her occurred during her junior year when Coach Manning mentioned midway through the campaign that she was batting .500 on the season.

“After he told me, my average dropped to .450,” she said with a laugh. “I told him not to tell me anymore.”

Brown said she was fortunate to play with some talented teammates.

“My hats off to Megan Shepherd,” she said. “She saved my hind parts with some of her plays in the outfield. Lauren Thomas was also a really good shortstop. We had each other’s back. It was a team atmosphere.”

Brown played varsity volleyball as a middle hitter all four years for Park View and was an All-District selection in her junior and senior seasons.

“We got better each year,” she said. “Coach B (Beth Callahan) had a large impact on me not only in volleyball but softball too. She always pushed us to give our best effort every day.”

Brown said Coach Manning was always supportive of her.

“He was good to me as a player and when I came back and coached my first year,” she said. “He advised me to take the Bluestone job.”

Brown said Coach Waverly Jackson also took an active role in her preparation for college.

“Coach Jackson would meet me at Park View at 6 a.m. to work out and help get me ready for college ball,” she said.

Brown said she decided to go to Pfeiffer after the head coach contacted her following her high-school graduation.

“The school had a small town feel,” she said. “I loved it. It was the best four years of my life.”

Brown played softball for the Lady Falcons all four years.

“My sophomore year was my best year,” she said. “We only had 13 girls on the team playing a full collegiate schedule. We called ourselves the ‘13 Strong’. It was tough but we got stronger because of it.”

She said one of her favorite memories in college softball happened that season when she hit a homerun out of the park and Pfeiffer knocked off top-seed Limestone, 2-1.

Besides pitching, Brown also played first and third base as well as DH and a little outfield.

In her freshman year, Brown appeared in 25 games and went 7-9 in 15 starts on the mound with 107.2 innings pitched. She struck out 36 and finished the season with a 3.64 ERA. She went 3-2 in conference play with a 3.30 ERA.

Brown handed Brevard its first loss of the season in her sophomore season when she went the distance for a 2-1 win on February 18, 2012.

One of her career highlights came against Mercy College on March 15, 2012, throwing a 1-hit shutout while striking out seven and walking only one in a 3-0 victory.

Brown graduated from Pfeiffer in 2013 with a B.S. in Mathematics and moved to Short Pump.

“I wanted no parts of softball anymore,” she said.

A friend asked her to join a co-ed softball league in the area. “I told her no five times,” she said. “But I finally agreed and the rest is history.”

Brown started teaching for Mecklenburg County Schools in 2015 and coached JV softball at Park View in 2016 before taking over the Bluestone HS varsity program in 2017.

She also served as an assistant volleyball coach to Coach Callahan for several years.

Brown said softball has always been her outlet in life since she started playing at 5-years-old.

“It’s always been an outlet,” she said. “Nothing else matters. Everything around me disappears when I am out there playing or coaching.”

Brown married former Bluestone HS baseball standout Chase Averette on September 19, 2020 and the couple lives in South Hill.

After missing last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown is hopeful that the Lady Barons will be able to play this spring.

“I am itching to get back on the field,” she said. “We have a special group of girls. We are looking to get back at it.”