This is the first in a series of player profiles featuring the Pulaski County Lady Softball seniors. Asked about the group as a whole, Coach Gina Miano said she’d welcome them to her staff as assistant coaches any time they wanted.
“Absolutely! They’re first-class young ladies. It’s absolutely been the most fun I’ve ever had working with this group in terms of coming in every day and giving me all they’ve got. And their leadership filters down the juniors and sophomores. They are a contagious group of positive energy. I look forward to coaching them every day,” Miano said.
In fact, hanging around this group, Miano said, would make for a very interesting reality show.
“Hanging around them would be a hoot!” she said. “You never know what Kelli (Duncan) is going to say. You never know how many times Sara Wright is going to get hit.”
Senior softball profiles: Sara Wright
When Sara Wright began playing softball at age 12 she remembers being afraid.
“I didn’t move up with everybody on my team because I was kind of scared,” Wright recalled.
You’d never know it now, though. In fact, if anyone’s scared now it’s the opposing pitcher as Wright has emerged from her shell to become one of the most prolific hitters to don a Cougar uniform.
With three games remaining before the River Ridge District tournament Wright has seven home runs, the first coming on the first pitch in the Cougars’ first game at their newly remodeled field.
While some players are dead set against swinging at the first pitch, Wright feasts on them.
“I’ve been taught that as a power hitter the first or second pitch is going to be the best pitch you see. If I can get my head around it I’m usually up for swinging at the first pitch,” Wright said.
But she hasn’t always been a threat at the plate. In fact she admits having an “awful swing” when she first hit the field as a member of the varsity team four years ago.
“I couldn’t swing a bat right. I just remember having an awful swing. But I’ve been to a bunch of different hitting coaches in Roanoke and in NC, just all over the place, to get better,” Wright said.
And as she improved her swing, the youngest four – the others all older brothers by the way – began gaining confidence as well, and not just at the plate.
Wright has played all the infield positions, but enjoys first base most of all.
“That’s where I ‘m most comfortable. That’s where I’ve played the most,” she said.
Lately, though, she’s spread her defensive wings, mostly by necessity. When classmate Brooke Hundley underwent surgery this year to remove a benign mass from her lung, Coach Miano moved Wright to shortstop for a few games. The move, Wright said, was a blessing in disguise in that it will only help her in the future.
“I’ve enjoyed getting the experience at shortstop, the change in position has been interesting and it’s probably going to make me more versatile at the next level,” she said.
That next level will be at James Madison University where Wright will be a recruited walk-on, meaning no scholarship right away but down the road, who knows? She’d also like to maybe try her hand at college shot put the way she did for Pulaski’s indoor and outdoor track teams the last few years.
“But that’s a long ways away!” Wright said.
Later this spring Wright will represent the East in the VHSL all-star game.
Wright is the only daughter of Eddie and Mary Wright. Mom set a shot put record at Pulaski not long ago and Dad played football elsewhere.
Sara loves math and wants to study computer science at JMU. When she grows up she wants to become a computer geek and help folks fix their computer problems or maybe even write some programs.
“Computers are just kind of fun and there’s a language to them. It’s almost like a foreign language and learning it and being familiar with it is pretty fun,” she said.
The three-sport athlete said she likes softball most for its heady aspects.
“I like the mental game; just knowing where to be and what’s going to happen next, just trying to anticipate those things,” Wright said.
And the mental part of the game has helped her succeed in class and at The Governor’s School.
“I think about how I learned to practice softball and putting things to memory and it’s definitely helped in school because I understand softball better than most subjects in school, but learning them the way I try to learn softball has helped quite a bit,” she said.
So has Coach Gina Miano – as far as focus and relaxation, that is.
“We focus a lot on relaxing and just not rushing the game, so I think that’s going to go with me, just letting the game come to us,” Wright said.
What else will she remember Miano for?
“She’s crazy! You never know what she’s going to say or what she’s going to do. But she’s great!” Wright said, smiling.
And of course her teammates have been unforgettable too.
“I love my teammates to death! They make it great no matter what’s going on,” she added.
For her younger teammates Wright had one simple piece of advice that’s often easier said than done.
“Keep swinging, because if you don’t swing you’re not going to hit it. There’s a saying, ‘Swing every time until the pitcher gives you a reason not to’ instead of going into the box looking for a pitch to swing at,” she said.
As far as coaching plans in her future, Wright was all smiles.
“Oh, definitely. I couldn’t imagine getting out of the game after college and giving it up. I couldn’t think about that. I would definitely love to come back here and coach somewhere, or start a travel team or something and do it all the time,” Wright said.
Asked how she will remember Wright, Miano summed her up in one catchy but very appropriate phrase.
“Sara’s like a Timex watch. She takes a beating. In just about every practice, every game, she’s hit with balls and her body is like armor,” Miano said. “She just perseveres, and she never questions anything.”
Years from now as she reflects on this team, Miano said she’ll remember Wright for her overall ability.
“She’s one of the best players in the state of Virginia,” Miano said. “I know that’s high praise, but she deserves it.”
Can we put this info into a box?
Favorite sport: Softball
Favorite beverage: Sweat Tea
Favorite junk food: Mountain Trail Mix
Favorite pro team: Chicago Bandits
Hobbies: Fishing, drawing
Celebrity I’d trade places with for a day: Softball announcer Jennifer Mendez
Longest book I’ve ever read: Little Women, all the Harry Potter books
If I were to make a sandwich in honor of one of my senior teammates: I would call it The Kelli (after Kelli Duncan). It would have a little bit of everything on it, all kinds of crazy stuff on it – like bananas and peanut butter, tomatoes, mayonnaise, everything that doesn’t go together but then comes together to make a great sandwich — because she’s all over the place, but she’s a great person.