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Trish White is True Blue

July 7, 2006 · Denise Gideon, MT Media Relations
The crack of the bat, the smell of the glove, grass stains on the uniform, the feel of the ball rolling through your fingers. For an athlete those senses merge to create what playing softball is all about. How could anyone walk away from that? Trish White almost did.

White, a 5-5 rising senior for the Middle Tennessee softball team, contemplated forgoing her senior season when she completed her junior year. The bright-eyed Mt. Juliet, Tenn. native has had to play through nagging injuries the past two seasons, and she just wasn't sure if she had the heart and fortitude to go through one more year fighting the pain and daily visits to the training room.

Her decision was cemented when she looked into the faces of her teammates. It was then she knew there were memories yet to be created. And how could she leave the friends she had made and the sport she loved so much?

"It's been a rough road," White admits. "When I had my surgery and had to rehab throughout the fall it was really hard because of injuries. I love the players, I love the coaches and I love Middle Tennessee. So in the end, I just couldn't walk away."

White has seen the highs and lows of the Blue Raider softball program. As a freshman she was a member of the club that reached the finals of the Sun Belt Championships after fighting back through the losers bracket. Then she had to face a coaching change, a limited squad and being moved into the role of pitcher after not practicing on the mound all fall as a sophomore.

After going through major rehabilitation in the fall of her junior season, White wasn't sure what she could do physically as the spring slowly crept upon her. Head Coach Leigh Podlesny approached White to ask her what she felt she could do. Did White want to concentrate on her pitching or play in her beloved outfield. Ever the team player, White knew she just couldn't walk away from pitching, not when the team had two freshmen pitchers, Laura Moore and Sam Floyd, and sophomore hurler Ashley Katinas coming back from an injury.

"Coach Podlesny asked me when I was starting back what I would rather do, pitch or play outfield," White said. "I told her I didn't want to give 50/50 to either position, I was going to give 100 percent and I was willing to work extra to do both. Whatever position I earned is the one I would get."

White made her first appearance on the mound, in 2006, against Southeast Conference member Auburn, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Tigers. She picked up her first win of the season in a 4-3 victory over instate rival Lipscomb, tossing six innings.

Perhaps one of the high points in 2006 for White came in the first conference series of the season against heated rival Western Kentucky. White was limited to the amount of innings she could play, so she found herself on the bench in the first game of a doubleheader with the Hilltoppers. In the top of the seventh inning, the Blue Raiders were down 4-0 to Western Kentucky and facing opening conference play with a loss. After the Blue Raiders cut the lead to three, thanks to a home run by Muriel Ledbetter, White came in as a pinch hitter and hit just the second home run of her career. The three-run bomb tied the game and forced the contest into extra innings. White wasn't finished, though, as she stayed in the game in relief on the mound, tossing two scoreless innings, allowing the Blue Raiders to come back and take the game 5-4.

"That is probably one of my favorite memories of all-time as a softball player," White admits. "I love pressure situations, it is always my favorite thing to do, perform your best under the pressure."

White has proven she will do whatever needs to be done for the Blue Raiders to be successful. She ended the 2006 campaign with 40 appearances on the mound, starting 11 games, led the pitching squad with a 3.56 ERA, was second on the team with 41 strikeouts and led the team with four saves. She ended the year tied for 13th in the nation in saves.

One of four seniors on the 2007 squad, White is the only four-year player. Seniors Muriel Ledbetter and Melissa Weiland, who were both Second Team All-Conference selections, are fifth-year seniors, and Shelby Stiner, who was voted Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year, is a junior college transfer. White sees each of the rising seniors bringing something to special to the 2007 squad.

"Melissa is a great motivator to the team and she will give her heart and soul," White said. "Shelby plays with such intensity and you don't find that everyday with just any player. Muriel has done more for the team on and off the field then any person I know and gives everything she has for the team."

And what of White herself? What does she feel she brings to the field?

"I just hope I can be a leader for the team," White said. "Maybe people can see what I have gone through to stay on this team, to play for this team, and use that as motivation. To work hard and stay positive and you can accomplish anything."

Again, it was because of her fellow seniors and the rest of her teammates that allowed White to realize she wasn't ready to walk away from Blue Raider softball just yet. She is excited about the core squad returning for the upcoming season and the host of newcomers who will be wearing Blue Raider blue next season. But most importantly, she is in awe of the support Middle Tennessee athletics has given to the Blue Raider softball squad, with the new facility and commitment to hosting the 2007 Sun Belt Championships.

"It is pretty special knowing everyone will be coming to your facility for the tournament," White said. "Senior day won't be so sad, either, because the four of us know we will have a few more games to play on our home field even after the regular season ends."

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