You hear the same thing from every coach across all sports. Everyone wants to be playing their best at the end of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs.
Stanhope Elmore’s Neci King is starting to hit her stride and it showed in the circle and at the plate during the Mustangs’ six games last week. She finished second on the team in hits and runs while grabbing two wins as the team’s ace pitcher. King is the Elmore County Player of the Week.
“Neci is a game changer for sure,” Stanhope coach Virginia Barber said. “She’s pitching phenomenal and we’ve asked her to really step up now. She’s starting to do that for the team and it’s helping us.”
Stanhope’s week got started with a rivalry game at Wetumpka on Tuesday and King was given the ball to help keep the Mustangs in the race for the regular season area title.
Before entering the circle in the first inning, King made her first impact of the game with her speed on the base paths. After leading off with a single, King raced to third base on an outfield error before scoring the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly.
King singled again in the third inning, advancing Kelbi Johnson to third base on the play. Johnson scored on another sacrifice fly to give the Mustangs a 2-0 lead.
“We have had her at the bottom of the lineup but we knew we needed to move her to the top,” Barber said. “We needed her speed and her leadership. She’s stepped up since we put her there. It helps our pitchers when they have a lead to work with so that way she can go out and help herself.”
After needing to get out of a jam in the first inning, King allowed only two baserunners over the next four innings and Stanhope extended its lead to 3-0, which was all it needed with King in the circle.
“I think she was throwing a bit of a riseball early that we couldn’t catch up with,” Wetumpka coach Jimmy Reeves said. “We had early opportunities to score but we couldn’t get it done. We let her settle in and she pitched a good game.”
Stanhope blew the game open in the top of the seventh. King added her third hit of the game, knocking in a run on a line drive to center field before coming around to score on a single to put Stanhope ahead 8-0 going to the bottom of the seventh.
After retiring Wetumpka in order in the final inning, King finished with five strikeouts while allowing just three hits in her seventh complete game of the season. She also had her first 3-hit game of the season at the plate, scoring twice and knocking in two runs.
King followed her performance with a two-hit game against Marbury during the team’s tournament over the weekend. She finished the week with seven hits in 18 plate appearances, raising her batting average to above .300 for the first time this season.