Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — See ball. Hit ball.
It seems simple enough — until one actually tries to go up and do it against pitchers who throw faster than your average speed limit on a four-lane highway.
However, even though hitting a softball isn’t simple by any means, Wheelersburg’s Boo Sturgill makes it look that way on an everyday basis.
Small in stature but not in heart or production, the 5-foot-1 middle infielder is a perfectionist — and that’s evident in seemingly whatever the young talent puts her mind to.
It’s also aided by a supportive environment at Wheelersburg that Sturgill refers to as “incredibly rewarding.”
“Playing for Wheelersburg is an extremely amazing experience that I don’t feel like I would receive if I were anywhere else,” Sturgill said. “The whole atmosphere is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before. When other schools play Wheelersburg, it’s like playing the whole town … the fan base is amazing. No matter where we play or what we’re doing, we always have support from our entire community.”
A sophomore who already serves as the three-hole hitter, Sturgill has already blistered her own path toward significant accomplishments and a potential opportunity, if not multiple opportunities, to play collegiately.
During her freshman campaign, Sturgill hit a ridiculous .507, going 36-for-71 at the plate. She added nine home runs, 10 doubles, 32 RBIs, and 41 runs scored to that number, serving as the team’s go-to offensive threat. Those statistics came en route to first-team all-SOC, Division III District Player of the Year, and first-team All-Ohio accolades … as a freshman.
“I was just seeing the ball really well and being patient with all my at-bats and letting the game come to me,” Sturgill said. “Hitting the home runs feels great because I’m able to put runs on the scoreboard for the team.”
So, what could be more impressive than that?
Wheelersburg, thanks in part to Sturgill, was 24-1 overall with an unblemished 14-0 mark in the SOC II — despite the loss of Division I talents Faith Howard [Northern Kentucky], Kalle Coleman [Morehead State] and Division II hand Bre Klaiber [Long Island University-Post] from a team that went 27-4 and advanced to the Division III State Championship in 2017.
It’s a job that could be considered one of the best of a string of impressive coaching performances in which Teresa Ruby has put together throughout her storied career.
“Playing for a coach like Teresa is an honor to me because she pushes me to not only be the best player that I can be, but a person as a whole,” Sturgill said. “She always has confidence in each and every one of us, which is so important to me because even when some of us don’t believe in ourselves, we know that coach never loses confidence in our abilities no matter what.”
While her batting average isn’t yet at the same mark as last year’s, Sturgill’s 10 hits in 24 at-bats still equates to a strong .417 mark, and that’s with a tougher early season schedule in place.
Playing strong competition, Sturgill has a home run, three triples, three doubles, 11 RBIs, and 18 runs, leading Wheelersburg to a 9-1 mark so far.
Included in the red-hot start to the season are three victories in four games against Spring Valley, Hurricane, and Morgantown University School in the Cabell Midland Sluggerfest — all teams that are in the highest classification [Class AAA] as part of the West Virginia Secondary School Athletic Commission [WVSSAC].
Each of those schools are nearly three times the size of Wheelersburg, yet the Pirates defeated University School [10-0 in three innings and 7-6] and Hurricane [8-6] during the Sluggerfest — Hurricane is over the past two seasons and has won the WVSSAC’s last four Class AAA state titles.
“The team as a whole is just amazing to be a part of because everyone is extremely talented,” Sturgill said. “We’re all able to pick each other up when mistakes are made, which is a key part to how our season will turn out. We all have high expectations that start with wanting to win the SOC, and we’re taking it one game at a time to achieve that goal. Everyone comes to practice everyday, ready to improve on something from the practice or game from the previous day. The whole team is playing amazing right now. Our bats are really hot and both of our pitchers [Sarah Claxon and Sydney Spence] are throwing the ball great. The Cabell Midland Sluggerfest was a really good test for us to help prepare for the rest of the season.”
Outside of simply practicing with Wheelersburg, Sturgill puts in additional work during the summer. The sophomore played with the Ohio Outlaws Premier 16U softball program and helped lead her team to a 22-18-4 overall mark.
When she’s not playing an actual game of softball, she’s working with her dad Ryan, and Adam LaLonde on getting better — LaLonde is a renowned hitting instructor from Huntington, W. Va. who has served as an assistant softball coach for Missouri at the NCAA Division I ranks after playing for the USA’s Mens National Team.
“What really helps me is the work I put in on my own time with my dad on top of the work I get in with the team,” Sturgill said. “Repetition is a big part of being successful, so I try to get in as many reps as possible with my hitting and fielding. I have gone to hitting lessons in West Virginia with Adam LaLonde, which has really benefited me, and I get in the gym as much as I can to lift and work on my quickness. I also play a challenging summer and fall schedule with my travel ball team that prepares me for the school season.”
With the amount of work that Sturgill puts in, it’s no surprise to see the success the sophomore has already put together on the softball diamond.
The hope, however, is that there’s more to come.
But with her work ethic at an A-plus level already, those hopes and dreams she has inside the game of softball are more likely to become a reality in the near future.
“The team accomplishment we’re all hoping for is to win the SOC every year and make deep tournament runs,” Sturgill said. “We would also love to win a state title or two. My personal goal is to work hard everyday to help my team. Hopefully, I’m fortunate enough to play at the collegiate level after I graduate.”