By GREG MENGELT
It didn’t take Charlestown coach Kevin Zollman long to realize that Alli Webster was going to be the best player he’d coached in more than a decade on the Pirates’ bench.
Webster was a star from the outset and was the News and Tribune softball Player of the Year a year ago as a junior. After an unforgettable senior season, Webster is now a two-time Player of the Year.
“I knew from Day 1 when she came in as a freshman,” Zollman said of his star’s potential. “I knew she was good as an eighth-grader, but I didn’t know how good. She hit the ball harder than most of my upperclassmen.”
Webster said she came in prepared as a freshman because she was afraid of letting down the seniors, a couple of whom became some of her best friends.
“My freshman year is the year I worked harder than any,” Webster said. “We had a lot of talent on the team and I knew I had to step up. I wanted to make sure the seniors had a successful year. Honestly, I was kind of scared not to be successful.”
Like Zollman, Webster knew she was talented even before entering high school. However, she didn’t know quite what to expect as a freshman member of the varsity.
“I didn’t know how good I was,” Webster admitted. “I had heard from other people. That year made me realize I could be as good as anybody out there.”
She has certainly been that.
Webster owns nearly every Charlestown softball career record — both on offense and defense. On offense, her 161 hits, 37 doubles, 18 triples, 17 home runs, 118 runs and 120 RBIs are all benchmarks. In the pitching circle, she has set the Pirate standard for wins with 66, shutouts with 22, no-hitters with 10, 813 strikeouts and one perfect game.
“Alli’s the best all-around player I’ve ever had,” Zollman said. “She could go to center field and play with anybody, and she fields her position on the mound as well as anybody I’ve had.”
“Alli Webster is not just a stellar pitcher, but an all-around excellent softball player,” Henryville coach Jennifer Schroeder said. “You hate to face her as a batter and you hate to have to pitch to her, as well. She can hurt you offensively, too.”
Although her home run numbers dropped from 10 to five from her junior to senior year — mostly because opposing pitchers were afraid to throw her good pitches — an argument can be made that Webster’s senior year was the best of her career.
She batted .516 with 32 RBIs, 39 runs, 12 doubles and a triple. Plus, she only struck out five times in 91 at-bats. Opposing batters had just 53 hits and struck out 224 times against Webster. She had an astounding 1.08 earned-run average with 20 complete games and 10 shutouts.
However, what cemented Webster’s legacy at Charlestown wasn’t an individual accomplishment. After trying for three years, the Pirates finally got the sectional championship they sought this season — the first for Charlestown since 1997 — with a 5-3 semifinal win over Salem and a 12-0 victory over Brownstown Central in the championship.
“It meant everything,” Webster said. “It wasn’t only for me. Since I was a freshman, that was the goal. We had our chances [in the first three years] and we knew we needed to get it done this year. We pulled together as a team and beating Salem was the highlight of the whole year.”
“I think that was very valuable to her,” Zollman said. “We’d strived to be sectional champions. Three of the four years, we felt like we had a shot at it. It was the exclamation point in her career to get that title.”
If the sectional championship was the exclamation of Webster’s team success, her pitching stretch from April 17 to May 2 was her personal statement.
In that time period, Webster threw seven shutouts in eight games and gave up just one run. She had double-figure strikeouts in seven straight outings, including 17 against Madison on April 29 and 20 against Scottsburg the following night.
She had shutouts on four consecutive nights against Madison, Scottsburg, New Washington and Brownstown.
“She was just on that week,” Zollman said. “The more she pitched, the better she pitched. The team played well behind her to be sure she didn’t give up any runs.”
Webster will take her diverse and skillful game to Wabash Valley College (Ill.) next year.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I can’t wait to see if I’m as successful at that level. I’m looking forward to a harder level of competition.”
“They’ll be very fortunate to have her,” Zollman said. “They’re getting an outstanding athlete.”
Although the Pirates were mostly a young team in 2013, Zollman knows replacing Webster will be nearly impossible.
“You’re going to miss someone like Alli a ton,” he said.
And Webster will miss her young teammates every big as much.
“Our team is extremely close,” she said. “We’re all best friends. It’s going to be hard to leave them.”
P/OF — Alli Webster, Charlestown (Sr., Player of the Year)
IF — Lillian Hughes, Providence (So.)
P — Caroline Cato, Floyd Central (Jr.)
IF/P — Alyssa Price, Charlestown (Sr.)
P — Hannah Morton, New Albany (So.)
IF — Emma Coons, Jeffersonville (Jr.)
P/OF/IF — Meredith Endris, Providence (Sr.)
OF — Katelin Dreher, Floyd Central (Jr.)
OF — Brittany Jones, New Albany (Sr.)
IF/P — Emily Gray, Jeffersonville (So.)
IF — Sydney Ledwedge, Silver Creek (Sr.)
P — Whitney Morris, New Washington (Sr.)
IF — Ali Sparkman, Clarksville (Jr.)
C — Coari Robertson, New Washington (Sr.)
IF — Brook McCoy, New Albany (So.)
IF/P — Taylor Batliner, Floyd Central (Jr.)
C — Brooke Lucas, Clarksville (Jr.)
IF — Morgan Boone, Providence (Sr.)
IF — Kayla Sexton, New Washington (Jr.)
OF/C — Marlee Karem, Providence (Fr.)
IF — Regan Hadley, Floyd Central (Fr.)
IF — Jacquie Hornung, Providence (Fr.)
P — Kayleigh Thomas, Jeffersonville (Sr.)
OF — Melinda Cochran, Providence (Jr.)
SS — Emily Hollis, Henryville (Fr.)
C — Jordyn Stengel, Providence (Jr.)
P — McKenzie Bush, Silver Creek (So.)
IF — Carly Price, Charlestown (Fr.)
P — Brooke Shaw, New Washington (So.)
Ashtyn Kaskie, Henryville (So.); Bethany Hall, Charlestown (Fr.); Shelbie Farvour, Borden (Jr.); Shayla Cravens, Silver Creek (Jr.); Darcee Rogers, Eastern (So.); Hannah Heintzman, Clarksville (Sr.); Gabbi Jenkins, Floyd Central (Fr.); Heather Knight, Silver Creek (So.).