Apr. 10—Mabry Eason didn't even like softball at first. She was more interested in dancing, cheer and gymnastics.
She started off in T-ball and thought it was boring and recalled how she would often do cartwheels while on the field. Once Eason moved up to coach-pitch and hit her first home run, however, things changed.
"After that, I was obsessed," Eason said.
Now in eighth grade, Eason's love for softball led her to quit cheerleading at first, then gymnastics and dance eventually. Despite not even being in high school, Eason is Russell Christian Academy's standout player, and she at one point was No. 2 in the Alabama Independent School Association in home runs and No. 6 in the AISA in strikeouts as a pitcher.
Entering RCA's game against Quitman Friday, Eason was batting .491 with an on-base percentage of .554, a slugging percentage of 1.094, seven home runs and was 9-for-9 on stolen base attempts. As a pitcher, she had a 3.72 ERA with 118 strikeouts prior to Friday's game against Quitman.
"Last year she was a seventh-grade starter for varsity and hit close to .500 before the season got cut short," RCA softball coach Larry Lippert explained. "She was a three-hole hitter as a seventh grader. She's a real calm kid who doesn't show a lot of emotion out there. Everyone on the team knows she's the best player on the team, and they treat her like a senior."
She may be younger than most of her varsity teammates — and her opponents — but Lippert said Eason actually seems more comfortable playing with and against older players, and Eason said she doesn't think about how young she is when she's playing.
"It doesn't faze me," Eason said. "I don't focus on age but on what I need to do to play to the best of my ability. Plus, I'm the same size as all of them."
Since the Lady Warriors rely heavily on Eason's production, she's also taken it upon herself to be a leader.
"Usually people say I inspire them, so I always try to be a good role model," Eason said. "I know I can inspire others by being myself and being a good person."
The home runs this season are a result of minor tweaks to Eason's plate approach over the last couple of years, Lippert said.
"In the last two years we've really worked on her power numbers," Lippert explained. "She's got it figured out. Her mechanics are much better, and her timing has gotten much better. Our batting practice is a showtime, I guess you can say, when she's hitting, because the bat sounds different when she hits the ball a long way."
Said Eason, "He told me to stay in my legs and use my lower body more, not just my arms. When I do it right — the way they tell me — I do really well."
And when she makes an out, Eason is quick to go back to the coaches and get their input.
"If she fails, she always comes to me and says, 'What did I do wrong?' and she always wants to improve on what happened," Lippert said. "She's always looking to better herself all the time."
That stems from the fact that Eason is somewhat of a perfectionist.
"I know I can do a lot better than a popup or a groundout, so I critique myself as best I can," she said. "It frustrates me (when I make an out) because I know I'm capable of more."
As much as she likes hitting home runs, Eason said she actually gets slightly more satisfaction from striking an opposing batter out when she's on the mound.
"A big home run feels really good, but if I get a big strikeout with the bases loaded and two outs and they don't score, I feel better about that," Eason said. "I just feel like I'm helping the team more."
Though she's yet to enter high school, Eason said she's already thinking ahead to college. She hopes to play softball at an SEC school, preferably LSU, Ole Miss or Florida.
"That would mean the world to me," Eason said. "It would feel like I finally made it after spending my whole life doing this."