By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Following a close 3-2 loss to area-rival New Hope early Thursday evening, Holly Pond softball coach Steve Miller was in desperate need of a pick-me-up.
Luckily for the coach, he got exactly what he was looking for — and then some — erupting with joy after learning junior ace Montana Holcombe had been selected to represent the Broncos at the 17th annual Alabama All-Star Sports Week.
Holcombe and 17 of the state’s other best upperclassmen softball players will suit up for the North softball team when it takes on the South squad on July 16 at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.
“There’s never been a more deserving kid in anything that I’ve ever seen than her,” an excited Miller said upon hearing the news. “She deserves every bit of that. I’m just really happy for her.”
At this time last year, Miller was talking about how he’d never had a student-athlete — regardless of sport — make a state All-Star team in his 20-plus year coaching career. Now, he’s been fortunate to have a player represented at the big-time event two seasons in a row, with current senior Katlyn Whitehead pulling off the feat in 2012.
“It’s a huge switch. To have back-to-back kids in that game is a testament to how hard they work and the time they put into it,” Miller said. “On my part, it sure makes it easier to coach when you’ve got those kinds of players that are recognized at that level.”
Whitehead made the most of her experience at last year’s All-Star doubleheader, teaming up with Good Hope phenom Cara Goodwin as Game 1’s starting catcher and pitcher. She also contributed a hit, a walk and a run at the plate.
Just as Whitehead was able to do with last year’s honor, Holcombe’s selection will help brighten the spotlight on the Holly Pond softball program. That’s great news to the man in charge of the Green and White.
“It says a lot about what these kids have earned, not just on a local level respect-wise but at a state level,” Miller said. “Program-wise, we’ve gone from my first year where people were asking where Holly Pond is. Now, when we show up, people at least know who we are.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.