Sherwood ace Anna Laine Brock holds the signed ball she was given by her teammates after recording career strikeout No. 500 on Thursday during an 8-4 win against city rival Deerfield. DWS, the host, showed a lot of class and sportsmanship by allowing the game to be stopped in the third inning so Brock could be recognized. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Brock)
ALBANY -- Anna Laine Brock called the moment that she struck out her 500th career high school batter Thursday during an 8-4 win against city rival Deerfield a few things.
Like "memorable" and "special" and even "a feeling of relief."
What this Sherwood honor student and ace pitcher didn't do was call for much credit.
"Can I thank someone? Well, some people, actually ... I just want to thank some people, because I couldn't do this alone," said the 17-year-old senior, showing maturity beyond her years by thinking of others in a moment of glory that easily could've been hers alone. "I want to thank my coaches, Michael Hatcher, Greg Ritcher and Nancy Mark, and, of course, my parents Rachel and Joe. But most importantly the Lord for giving me this awesome and unique talent."
After nine strikeouts in Thursday's win, it's a talent that has fooled opposing batters now a total of 505 times in her high school career --- likely more than 1,000 if you count her travel club seasons --- and has resulted in several no-hitters and two perfect games. She came into Thursday's game four Ks away, but Brock didn't even know it.
"No one would tell me. They would only tell me I was almost there," said Brock, who chose to let the moment come as a surprise, rather than sneak at peek at her dad's heavy stat book he's been keeping since her very first high school pitch. "When I got it, I was just so happy. It was a really special moment."
Career No. 500 was strikeout No. 3 of the game and came in the third inning. The umps were told beforehand about the very real possibility of the milestone being reached that afternoon -- after all, she averages 7 Ks a game -- and when it came on her best pitch, a drop ball down and away, the moment had arrived.
"They stopped the game, made an announcement on the loud speaker and people clapped and stuff," Brock said as she humbly relived an achievement so rare, Hatcher said he'd only heard of a handful of pitchers in Georgia ever reaching that mark. "Then my teammates handed me a ball they all signed, and they made signs (saying congratulations). It was just really nice."
But in a true show of class, Brock said she thought there was something ever nicer about how the occasion was handled on an opposing team's turf --- and a rival one at that.
"I can't tell Deerfield how thankful I was that they were OK with stopping the game for me," Brock said. "It was an away game, and they didn't have to. But they did, and I thought that was just awesome."
Hatcher, deservedly so, called Brock "as rare as they come."
"Is she the best I've ever coached? Absolutely. No question," he said. "I can't tell you proud I am. It takes a lot of hard work to get to the level she's at. But this is what happens when you pick up a ball and a bat and a glove almost every day for 12 months a year, every year. Her dedication is amazing."
Brock said she will "most likely" next take her talents to Huntingdon College in Alabama, where she plans to major in exercise science or biology and become a physical therapist. And now that the milestone is here and gone, she can focus on the rest of her senior year and working toward her future.
"It was a relief, I guess, just because I knew it was coming," she said. "And now that it's here, it was great that I could share it with my teammates and now we can really focus on the rest of the season."
NOTES: Sherwood improved to 2-2 with the win ... Brock now has 48 strikeouts this season and an ERA of 0.72 ... other Lady Eagles who shined in Thursday's win were Amber Olsen (2 for 3, 2 doubles, 2 runs scored), Marylen Kennedy (2 for 3, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored) and Kailey Parr (2 RBI, stolen base) ... Brock's average pitch speed is roughly 58 mph ... the only other player in Southwest Georgia in recent years to reach 500 career strikeouts was SGA's Bailey Ponder. Coincidentally, Ponder and Brock are friends and played on the same travel team together.