For some athletic teams there is an individual or individuals who the other players like to rally behind or who can be looked upon as key contributors that will help lead the charge.
In the case of the 2019 North Pike Jaguars’ fast pitch softball team, the key contributors were the four seniors — Mary Kate Bates, Janiah Talbert, Jenna Brock and Madison Moak. The group has been playing together for the past few years and for the last four, have been a part of Jaguar teams that have been to the South State Championship series. The group is the first in school history to accomplish such a feat.
“They are a very special group, they are a group that we are going to miss next year,” North Pike head coach Sonya Wallace said. “We’ve made it to South State before but never four years in a row.”
The four players have made up most of the infield over the last few years with Bates playing catcher, Talbert holding down third base and Brock and Moak playing shortstop and second base, respectively. They also were the first four batters in the lineup, with Brock and Moak sharing leadoff duties followed by Talbert then Bates.
Talbert said they will have to work hard to get the next wave of girls used to playing the positions that she and the other three seniors played but she has faith that they will do a fine job.
“They should be a pretty good softball team next year,” she said. “They will have to work in the infield a little bit but they will be a pretty good team.”
Talbert added that she is anxious to see how her little sister Bridjette does next year as she steps up into a leadership role as a senior.
Playing the last six years for the Jaguars has been special for Talbert, not only because of the comradery, but also because of the accomplishments.
“We were a part of two state championship teams,” she said. “We made history here.”
Another individual who will have a younger sibling playing for the Jaguars next season is Bates, who wishes the best for her sister Meredith. Mary Kate said she instilled the same principles that she received from her older sister, Madison.
“Last year I was really hard on my sister, my little sister” she said. “She was only on here for one (year). She got to feel that same feeling. This year I decided that she was a good pitcher and she is going to do what she is going to do and she wants to win just as bad as we all do so I am just going to let her be her.”
While the four all signed on to play at SMCC next year, Bates later decided to step away from the game to focus more on her academics.
“I decided that it was best for me to not play ball anymore,” she said, becoming emotional while discussing her decision. “I have a lot of school ahead of me and have so many dual credit hours that I will be graduating late. But I know that Jenna, Janiah and Moak will go over there and work their butts off and be just as successful over there as they are here and be just as successful in life. And I’ll miss playing with each and every one of them.”
Similar to Bates, Brock had the torch passed down to her by an older sibling, adding that she has two older siblings who played for North Pike.
“I had two older siblings who played on this team and I was the youngest,” she said. “When they left, I had to work hard and carry it. I know that my sisters have always pushed me to do my hardest and my best, sometimes maybe too much. But they have always seen potential in me that I haven’t seen in myself.”
She said that while winning state in back-to-back years and competing in four-straight South State Championships doesn’t compare to the relationship that she has built, playing with the three other seniors.
“Winning state, especially back-to-back was an amazing time, but the girls that I have played with these past six years mean more to me than any trophy could,” Brock said. “It is not the winning, it is the bond and the hard work paying off that you put in that makes it feel so right.”
For Moak, being a part of something big over the last four years has been very special for her.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “And certainly being on a team where we won state back-to-back, I am so happy I got to be a part of that. It is a really, really exciting feeling and it is hard to explain.”
Moak said playing with Bates, Talbert and Brock over the years has been great for her.
“These girls have been in my life as far as I can remember and I love each and every one of them so much and it is really, really amazing being able to be seniors with them.”
Wallace said she is thankful for the last handful of years that she got with the 2019 seniors who have been key contributors for her during nearly all of their tenures at North Pike.
“They were all a big part of our two state championships back in ’16 and ’17 when we won those,” she said. “I just can’t say enough about all the hard work that they have put in and how dedicated they have been to our program.”