Sydnee Clark pitched her team to a state championship. She devoured opposing hitters. She hoisted the title trophy at the end of the year, signifying that her team — the White Hall Lady Bulldogs — was best in the state.
But it was a slide into third base against Watson Chapel that Clark, The Commercial’s Southeast Arkansas Pitcher of the Year, remembers most.
“That adrenaline that I felt was sky high,” Clark said. “I don’t think coach or the fans liked it very much. I have to say that’s probably the most memorable thing that happened all year.”
The reason behind the slide started more than a year ago, April 2010, when Clark slid into third base and broke her ankle. The slide against Chapel was the first time she had slid into a base since the break. It was also the same base she slid into when she suffered the career-altering break. It took months to rehab her ankle and a year to rehab her mental approach.
“I think everyone in the stands held their breath,” Clark said. “And they all got onto me afterwards. They all screamed at me.”
While Clark was attempting to prove to herself that she was back at 100 percent, the coaching staff, including head coach Terri Smith, teammates and fans, were trying to keep her that way,
“I about had a stroke,” Smith said. “But I do think it let her know she was fixed. I didn’t want her to slide unless she had to. I already knew she was back. I just didn’t want her to get hurt. I want college coaches to see her. I want her to have a great senior year and get some offers.”
Clark has yet to receive any offers but will likely start obtaining some interest after leading the Lady Dogs to their first state title in school history, posting an 1.35 ERA enroute to a 15-5 record, undeniably placing her in the category of one of the top pitchers in Arkansas.
“I hope so,” Clark said of the thought of being ranked among the state’s elite. “I would like to think that. But it’s not just me. It’s my teammates. I knew I had that defense behind me and that helped me relax on the mound.”
And now that she has that consideration, she knows teams will be putting her to the test as White Hall attempts to repeat during her senior campaign.
“I want them coming at me,” Clark said. “And I am going to come back at them. I want them to bring their best at me and I am going to take my best at them.”
And while the slide was a moment Clark reflects on with a laugh, a sly, almost catty smile crossed her face when she recalled giving up a long ball against Vilonia in the championship game at Bogle Park in Fayetteville, a screwball that didn’t screw enough.
“It kind of hung a little too much on the white,” Clark admitted. “And it just went … out there. I knew it was gone. It was just one of those where you looked up and said OK.”
But Clark made few mistakes during the season, working four or five different pitches, including a 64 mph fastball. In 108 2/3 innings Clark recorded 130 strikeouts and walked only 41. She was 4-0 in four state playoff games, sporting a mere .054 ERA.
“I would like to be able to throw in the mid to high 60’s,” Clark said. “I don’t know that it will happen this year but that’s my goal. I know it will take a lot of work but that’s where the Division I pitchers are.”
Clark said she needs to be in that upper 60s range to get looks from Division I programs.
“I would love to go to one of those schools,” Clark said. “That would be amazing. But I will consider any school, like OBU or Henderson. I would be fine with that. I just want to play in college. My ultimate goal is the top level but I am looking at every opportunity.”
Smith said Clark had all the tools necessary to make it at the next level.
“She generally throws the ball where it needs to go,” Smith said. “She understands her pitches before games and lets us know what is and what isn’t working. She is a very smart pitcher with great control and good speed. I think she will get stronger this year an someone is going to notice her.
“She worked very hard to come back after her injury. I want her to get the recognition she deserves.”