Anytime Evangel’s Whitney Usie or Blaire Buckman tell a joke and shortstop Shelby Salley is in the vicinity, they know they’ll have to explain themselves to the Lucy of the Lady Eagles’ squad.
Salley admittedly isn’t real quick on the up-take, especially when it comes to jokes that require a bit of thinking.
“I’m a weird person and I’m kinda slow — sometimes,” Salley said, while sitting with her legs tucked underneath her on Evangel’s dugout bench on Tuesday afternoon. “A lot of times I don’t get the joke — until about five minutes later. I’m lacking in common sense, and I get made fun of for it.”
Usie said it’s mostly the smart jokes that give her fellow senior trouble.
“There’s a 10-second delay up there sometimes, then we have to explain it,” Usie said chuckling.
“‘What’ is a common word that Shelby uses,” Buckman added.
But one thing that Salley does get, and she gets quickly, is that she must provide leadership to a mostly young Lady Eagles squad that will meet No. 1-seeded John Curtis (27-2) on Friday at high noon in the LHSAA Class 3A state quarterfinal contest. Seniors Salley, Usie, Buckman and Carolina Sanchez have made trips to Sulphur for Fast Pitch 56 at Frasch Park a regular postseason stop, but this will be the last trip south for the fearsome foursome.
“It’ll be sad, but exciting,” Salley said. “The atmosphere down there really gets you pumped up.”
Evangel (22-9) advanced to the quarterfinals by rallying past St. Louis 6-5 in nine innings on Saturday thanks in part to home runs by Salley and Sanchez.
“I knew it would be close, but our team and school showed a lot of heart, including our drummers and streamer people who came out to support us,” Salley said. “When we were down 5-3, I had my doubts, and then I popped up. I thought, ‘oh, crap.’ But Emily (Deramus), Sanchez, Kayla (Calhoun) and Olivia (Sessions) busted it open. Then I knew — ‘we got this.'”
The affable Salley has spent most of her life on Broadacres Road toiling either in the classroom or on the Dan Moreman diamond. She couldn’t remember when she started attending Evangel, until someone reminded her.
“What? I think it was K-4,” she said. “And I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Salley was a runner for current NSU catcher Bailey Shephard during her freshman season, then played centerfield the following season. On Saturday she’ll be the heart of the Lady Eagles’ defense against one of the toughest teams in the state in defending 2A state champion John Curtis.
“It will be amazing if we win, but we are trusting in God at this point,” Salley said. “If it’s God’s will, we’ll win. If not, we’ll move on to other things.”
After graduation, Salley will head to Los Angeles for a 10-month internship in outreach ministry, then she’ll attend college somewhere. Meanwhile she assists her memory by shortening the names of coaches and teammates.
Coach Meghan Fisher is just “Fisher,” and Carolina Sanchez is just “Lina.”
“This is the closest team I’ve been a part of by far. I love Fisher and I’m gonna miss her so much,” Salley said.