Softball Standout Honored
Tyler Ross has had quite the two years on the softball diamond playing for the Lady Vikings under head coach Randy Calcutt.
The rising Union Pines junior was recently named to the 2011 MaxPreps Sophomore All-American softball team. She also earned second team All-American honors for schools with enrollment sizes of less than 2,000 students.
“It feels great to be named an All- American,” said Ross. “There are a lot of great players in the country, and for me to be considered as one of the best is such an outstanding feeling.”
The announcement came shortly after Ross was named the North Carolina Softball Coaches Association (NCSCA) 3A East Player of the Year and District 4 3A Player of the Year.
On the season, she batted .589 with 37 runs, 29 RBIs, five doubles and seven home runs. She also won 10 games as a pitcher and stole 42 bases to claim her second straight Cape Fear Valley Conference (CFVC) player of the year award.
As a freshman, she went .636 with the stick tallying four home runs and stole 45 bases. On the mound, she pitched three no hitters and finished with a record of 10-2.
The recognition has already come in full force for Ross by not only MaxPreps and the NCSCA, but also from the Union Pines athletic department.
No matter who is doing the talking — be it athletic director Bobby Purvis, legendary former hoop coach Carl Salmon, or current head coaches Calcutt (softball), John Lewkowicz (basketball) and Leslie Fish (volleyball) — one thing they all agree about is her tremendous talent, skill, ability and potential. More so, however, they seem truly taken by her infectious smile, wide-eyed eagerness to improve and easygoing nature.
Put her in the heat of an athletic clash and the mild-mannered girl transforms into a relentless force to be reckoned with — she simply does not know how to back down from any challenge.
“Tyler just battles til the end,” said Lewkowicz, the 2010-2011 CFVC girls’ basketball coach of the year.
Ross averaged a double-double as a sophomore, scoring 10.1 points and pulling down 11.6 rebounds per contest. As result, she was named an all-conference and all-district player for the 2010-2011 Vikings, who made it to the 3A eastern regional basketball semifinals for a second straight season.
She also earned all-conference honors in volleyball, leading Union Pines in kills while finishing second in blocks and third in digs despite missing four matches with a shoulder injury.
“The things that stand out about Tyler are her quickness on her jumps,” Fish said, “along with her intensity and athletic instincts.”
While Ross has proven her prowess on the basketball and volleyball courts, she makes no bones about proclaiming softball as her hands-down favorite sport.
“Softball is different than any of the other sports I play,” she said. “You can get pumped up while playing all sports, but for me, it’s nothing compared to hitting a home run or striking out a batter.
“The cheering the team does throughout the game, and being able to go crazy when your teammates make a good play, cannot be matched.”
Ross first started playing softball when she was 9 years old. Before that she played tee ball for two years, at ages 5 and 6, and then moved up to coaches pitch baseball for another two years.
“Back then, it was coed up through age 8, so I was 10 years old when I started playing softball competitively,” she said. “My first team was the Carolina Bobcats, a team coached by coach Calcutt.”
It did not take long before the youngster became smitten with the sport.
“I fell in love with the game of softball at an early age,” said Ross. “I was playing with a team out of Alamance County called the Alamance Sluggers.
“I was in the (pitcher’s) circle and the batter continued to battle at the plate by hitting foul balls. One of my coaches, Charlie Brooks, asked me to throw a change-up pitch. I had never thrown one in a game nor had I ever been asked to throw one. I threw one and the girl struck out.
“Coach Brooks met me halfway to the dugout and gave me a high five. We both had the biggest smiles on our faces and I knew from that point I was going to love the game of softball.”
Ross went on to elaborate about other virtues she believes make softball the best fit for her.
“The thing I like most about softball is the sense of freedom that comes with the game,” she said. “There are no fouls or yellow cards. Any anger one may have during the game, you get to take it out on the ball when you are up to bat.
“Also, it is played outdoors, in the fresh air, and the ground is a lot softer than the hardwood court floors.”
Calcutt has watched Ross develop from a budding youth, full of promise and potential, into one of the state’s truly elite prep softball players.
While the longtime Union Pines softball coach is quite complimentary of her phenomenal playing ability, he is even more proud of the approach and grace she brings with her everyday to the ball yard.
“For as good as Tyler is, she’s just so humble,” said Calcutt, who won his second consecutive CFVC coach of the year award this season. "Players like Tyler do not come along that often and while she is a super player, she is an even better person.
“To win back-to-back player of the year awards is a huge deal,” he added. “It speaks volumes about her high level of play, determination and work ethic — no one works harder, which is why she deserves all the honors she has received.”
Something that becomes clear when spending any amount of time around Tyler is that her family — especially her father, Tyrone, and mother, Tron — mean the world to her and are an integral part of her life.
Ross’ parents have become familiar fixtures at the gyms and stadiums where Ross competes.
“I just thank God for the abilities and talents he has given me and for my parents and grandparents who kept me grounded and taught me that it can be taken away quicker than it was to develop it,” she said.
It is her family and faith that Ross believes helped pave the way for her athletic accomplishments.
“I attribute my success to a number of things,” she said. “First to God for giving me the athletic ability that I have, my parents, who believe in me and push me so that awards such as this one could be possible.
“Last but not least, I’d like to thank my grandma Gertrude Ross, who has passed away. She always pushed me to try to be the best that I could be, and I know that she is now looking down on me. I am trying to make her proud of what I am doing.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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