By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Montana Holcombe is a girl of very few words. Luckily for Holly Pond’s pitching sensation — but not so much for opposing batters — she does most of her talking with her arm.
Holcombe struck out six batters and didn’t allow a run in two innings of work Tuesday night at Lagoon Park, helping propel the North to an 8-4 victory over the South in the nightcap of the All-Star Sports Week softball series.
“She’s a quiet kid. She’s not going to make a whole lot of noise. She’s not real flashy. But people that really know softball, that’s why she’s down here,” Bronco softball coach Steve Miller said. “She comes in and has two strikeouts in two innings, which is good for any level of anybody. But to do that at an all-star game is phenomenal.”
Holcombe spent two innings in right field and had one trip to the plate in the opening contest, which ended in a 3-0 win for the South. It wasn’t until the third inning of the nightcap, however, that North coach John Smith called on the Holly Pond ace to do what she does best.
Faced with a 3-0 deficit, Holcombe shook off a hard-hit single by the South’s Taylor Bahos and quickly settled down. She fanned three of the next four batters — all looking — to escape the frame without a speck of damage.
Another single and a four-pitch walk put Holcombe in a slight pickle to start the fourth, but she managed to walk away unharmed yet again, striking out three straight to end her outing on a high note.
“She lived up to everything that coach Miller told us about her,” Smith said, who recently left Hatton for a coaching job at Russellville. “She’s a good pitcher, smart player, just a joy to coach. That’s the reason she’s here — because she’s an all-star.”
Holcombe exited the dugout at the end of the night with an ice-wrapped shoulder and a smile on her face. The Bronco credited the high strikeout total to her curveball, which she effectively worked inside and out, and added she felt completely comfortable in the pitcher’s circle knowing how many solid defenders were ready to have her back.
“It was pretty amazing, I met a lot of new people and it was really fun,” Holcombe said. “I knew that if they did hit it, the defense was pretty legit behind me anyways.”
The North squad’s 18-girl roster was packed with next-level pitchers. There was Holcombe, a University of Alabama-Huntsville commit; Holly Ward, a two-time state champ at Haleyville; Pisgah’s Megan Smith; and Mars Hill’s Mallory Spurlock, who was named the North MVP after striking out nine in four innings spread out over both games.
Just to have been invited to the star-studded event, much less prove she’s a star in her own right with two sharp innings, was an honor to Holcombe.
“It’s pretty big, almost unbelievable,” she said.
One person who had no problem believing Holcombe belonged in Montgomery was Miller. After watching Holly Pond Katlyn Whitehead and Good Hope’s Cara Goodwin shine in last year’s all-star festivities, the longtime Bronco coach was equally impressed with the way Holcombe represented her school and county.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of this and to have had players from Cullman County two years in a row,” Miller said. “It’s impressive how well Cullman County has represented Cullman County here. Probably some of the better players on the North team have been from Cullman County in the past two years.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.