High-SchoolSoftball: Cortlin Hartness
April, 17, 2012
By Andrew Linnehan | ESPN.com
The Charlotte Observer/Jeff WillhelmDuring one stretch this season, Alexander Central's Chelsea Wilkinson sandwiched back-to-back no-hitters and back-to-back one-hitters around a perfect game.
Don't get mad at Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) senior pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson if she can't recall the last time she gave up a run in a high school softball game. Since the last time an opponent crossed the plate against the righteous right-hander, her family has paid a couple electric bills, students have left for and come back from spring break and horoscopers have flipped their Zodiac calendars from Pisces to Aries and soon to Taurus.
During her 10-game shutout streak, Wilkinson has rarely even allowed a ball out of the infield, allowing her Cougars to vault up to fourth in the POWERADE FAB 50 national softball rankings. Such was the case last Thursday, when Wilkinson one-hit J.L. Mann (Greenville, S.C.) in a border battle between the North Carolina and South Carolina defending 4A state champions.
The victory also served as a colossal milestone for Wilkinson, who earned her 100th win in the contest and inched ever closer to her third Gatorade Player of the Year Award in North Carolina. Last year, she became the first-ever high schooler from the Tar Heel state to win multiple POY hardware from Gatorade and only the third softballer nationally to accomplish the feat.
"I have worked so hard to get to the position I am at today, and it feels good to know it is paying off," said Wilkinson, who has signed with the University of Georgia. "I love setting records and winning awards, but I love being successful even more."
DN Pennell, Jr. /The Taylorsville Times"I love setting records and winning awards," Chelsea Wilkinson says. "But I love being successful even more."
Success has come in bunches since Wilkinson entered high school in 2009 with battery-mate Lauren Elder and outfielders Brianna Elder and Cortlin Hartness. Elder has caught every pitch of Wilkinson's high school career, which has seen Alexander Central win state titles in both 2009 and 2011, furthering the team's proclamation that its home be called Title Town.
And while a routine of success has become rather customary in Title Town, the growth of this year's graduating senior class has been fascinatingly noteworthy. Wilkinson was forced to establish herself as a young freshman in the circle in 2009, and has since budded into a dominant force that inspires confidence and intense work ethic in all who surround her.
"In 2009 I was just trying to earn acceptance and make a name for myself," Wilkinson said. "By my junior year, people knew who I was and what I was capable of, so I had to live up to that."
You'd need a forklift to set the bar as high as Wilkinson has set it through her first three years of high school. Amazingly, she's still clearing that bar. Through the first 18 games Alexander played (they won 17 of them), Wilkinson has dished out more doughnuts than a rookie cop at a police station's morning meeting. The string of shutouts is at 10 straight games. During the streak, Wilkinson had a stretch in which she hurled back-to-back no-hitters against Hibriten (Lenoir, N.C.) and St. Stephen's (Hickory N.C.), then a perfect game against East Rowan (Salisbury, N.C.), and then back-to-back one-hitters against Fred T. Foard (Newton, N.C.) and Grove City (Ohio). On Monday night, she threw another no-hitter, and got her 101st win, in a 10-0 win over Hickory (N.C.).
A quote on the Alexander Central softball website says, "Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should accomplish with your ability."
If Wilkinson and her fellow seniors live up to that statement, they're about to leave a wake of destruction in what could arguably be one of the most impressive four-year runs in high school softball history.