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For Mercedes Cowherd, one of the greatest joys of playing softball is the bond that it creates among teammates.
Since she started playing the sport in tee-ball, it was the one thing that always stuck out. No matter your situation off the field, everyone on a team develops a closeness that others couldn’t fathom.
This is especially true when it comes to her fellow seniors, most of whom she has played with since she was first able to swing a bat.
“That senior bond, that’s something special,” Cowherd said. “I think this year is one of the first years that our seniors all get along. That sets a good example for the younger kids on the team, shows them what teammates are supposed to do.”
The trust that she has in her teammates has been a real asset for Cowherd.
With two children of her own — Ka’dren and Zaden — and juggling school, work and softball, having a team full of confidants has been a rewarding experience.
“Having two kids, there are a lot of days that I know that when I come out here for softball, I can focus,” Cowherd said, “and I have 18 other girls I can talk to whenever I have any problems. I’ve got a lot of trust in my other teammates.”
Having coached her in some aspect at every level Cowherd has played, Washington County head softball coach Paul Coulter has seen firsthand how much she has been able to overcome.
He, for one, has been thoroughly impressed.
“Mercedes has had a lot of support from her family to try and let her be a kid, to participate on the team, despite having two kids,” Coulter said. “Just seeing her dealing with her kids, getting school work done, coming to all of the practices and games, it’s been incredible to watch.”
With such a strong work ethic, Cowherd has been able to adjust to any and all adversity on the field throughout her career.
So when Coulter approached her about playing first base this year—a spot she had never been before — Cowherd took the position change in stride.
“I’ve played a lot of different spots my whole life, so it was something that I kind of expected,” Cowherd said. “Transitioning like that wasn’t that hard.”
But that doesn’t mean it didn’t come without some on-the-job learning, something she combats with a can-do attitude.
“It was something I wasn’t used to at first, so of course I missed some balls,” Cowherd said. “But instead of getting my head down, I try to get it back and get the next play. As a team, we’ve been trying to keep our head up instead of dropping it down and getting behind all year. We all do that this year; we try to keep our heads up. It’s been a great thing for us.”
Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, either. Coulter praised Cowherd for her ability to transition to her new position, all in the name of helping out her squad.
“We needed a first baseman, and she worked really hard at learning that position,” Coulter said. “She’s done a really good job for us there.”
The change on defense certainly didn’t hurt her offense. Cowherd hit the first home run of her high school career this season (and the Commanderettes’ first in over a year), something she cited as one of her fondest memories in a WC jersey.
“It was shocking, really,” Cowherd said. “I wasn’t expecting it to go over the fence. It was like, I wasn’t even trying. The little swing is what counted most. It was a great feeling.”
With graduation this Friday night, Cowherd plans on attending the University of Kentucky and majoring in physical therapy.
“Knowing that a lot of my family has had knee replacements and have been going to physical therapy, that’s really opened my eyes to that field,” Cowherd said.
But no matter where she goes, she’ll always have her softball sisters.
“I’m going to miss this team,” Cowherd said. “But we’re like a family. We’ll always have that special bond, no matter what.”