HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Whatever Hartsville needed Abi Stokes to do, she did it.
Moving from center field to left field, too? Ditto.
The junior excelled at whatever she did on a Red Fox softball team that excelled at everything while going undefeated and winning the SCHSL Class 4A state championship.
That’s what makes Stokes the Morning News Softball Player of the Year after batting .495 with two doubles and triples to go along with 12 RBI and 11 stolen bases.
Stokes just wished her average had stayed above .500. But after going 0 for 3 in the final game of the state finals, she was very upset.
“She was as mad as the devil,” said Hartsville coach Tommy Garrison, the Morning News Softball Coach of the Year.
But it was that kind of ambition and determination that elevated Stokes’ game after she was mostly replaced by a designated hitter at the plate in 2018.
“Before this season, I wanted to improve on my hitting a lot,” Stokes said. “And it came around this year, and my hitting ended up No. 1 in the region.”
But on the mound, Stokes was also a force as she went 9-0 on the mound with a 1.04 ERA in 33 2/3 innings with 36 strikeouts after taking it back up after not pitching since age 12.
“My coach said, ‘Abi, I know you haven’t pitched in a while, but you’re going to have to come through this year and it’s time to start working hard and get your pitches back working,” Stokes said. “So, I just started pitching again and practicing and doing what I needed to do to get where I needed to be.”
Freshman teammate Alyssa Poston was the winning pitcher in the Red Foxes’ other 20 games.
What also helped Stokes was working on her skills at Lander, where she has been committed to since August.
After shortstop Te’Asia McPhail was moved from shortstop to center field, that moved Stokes to what became her position for the rest of the season.
“Our team bonding made it a great environment to be around,” Stokes said. “Hartsville is great with their athletics. And then, we went 29-0, which is coming out on top and breaking some records.”
Indeed, Hartsville’s softball team is the first in program history to finish undefeated.
But what about next season? Stokes already is setting goals.
“We will set our standards high again after this year,” Stokes said. “And our goal is to go undefeated again. Hopefully, we can play 30 games so we can go 30-0 instead of 29-0.”