You’ve probably seen the video. A female high school pitcher is on the mound pitching to a young man in a football jersey. The first pitch he misses completely. The second is tipped foul. He sinks into a deeper stance and squares up for the last pitch. The pitcher rubs her hand in the dirt, dusts it on the side of her blue jeans, and sends him a final pitch. He misses. In an attempt to redeem his honor, his teammates begin to step up to the batter’s box. Pitch after pitch, the young men, nearly all in football jerseys, either miss completely, hit the ball foul, or not even get off a swing. She strikes them all out.
The ace pitcher featured in the now-viral video is Canton Academy senior Kendall Calloway. The Hinds Community College commit was already pretty well-known in the MAIS world. She has been on the school’s varsity team since the 8th grade and has been a significant contributor both as a pitcher and center fielder for the Lady Panthers. Two seasons ago, she had more than 100 strikeouts and finished last year with 96. According to head coach Chad Smith, Calloway has an ERA of under 2 and a total of 117 strikeouts so far this season. After her team lost their initial South State playoff game without her in the circle, she threw 14 straight innings with 21 strikeouts to earn them a spot in the state tournament. They play Marshall Academy Saturday at 1 p.m. in the four-team, double-elimination state tournament.
“She is a fiery competitor,” said Smith. “That is what I love about her.”
It was a mix Calloway’s competitive spirit and her coach’s memory of a similar experience which prompted the midday hitting contest. A few of the Lady Panthers were suffering the lighthearted teasing of some classmates after having suffered a loss to Clinton Christian the previous night. Football player Evan Walsh commented that it couldn’t be that hard to hit a softball. Then added a bet that he could hit a home run from Calloway’s pitch. The second-year head coach decided to take the challenge to the mound. By the end of the class period, Calloway had taught them a valuable lesson.
“They definitely tipped their hats to me,” she said. “They said they thought that it would be a lot easier. They were laughing because they expected to hit it, but they didn’t.”
For Smith, it was déjà vu. During his time as a baseball player at Mississippi College, he had made the fateful mistake of calling out one of the women pitchers. She’d quickly struck him out.
This weekend, Calloway will make one final attempt to lead her team to a state championship. No matter the outcome, her tenacity and determination have already left their mark on the program.
“Kendall is a great role model for myself and all the younger players. She always works hard and gives her best at everything,” said eighth grader Reagan Taylor. “Her positive attitude and incredible work ethic are admired by everyone who knows her. Above all, she exhibits Christ-like behavior in her actions and words.”
Smith adds that it is not only her talent, but her character that sets her apart. He describes the honor roll student as a devout Christian who is unfailingly honest and loyal. She is well-respected by her peers which was proven in her selection by the student body as a senior Homecoming maid.
“That meant so much to her. She doesn’t get the (publicity) that all the other girls do that play all the sports. She plays softball and she runs track, but she doesn’t play basketball and she doesn’t cheer. She got nominated for Homecoming Maid as a senior. It was school voted on and I’m really excited for her.”
The video, which now has over 2 million views, ensures that Calloway will have bragging rights for a very long time. It’s something Smith never anticipated when he took his class to the field that day.
“I never dreamed that Facebook would’ve made that big of an impact,” Smith said. “It’s amazing. We’ve had calls and offers from people all over the place.”
“I didn’t even expect it to get 100 views,” said Calloway. “It’s crazy, like unbelievable,” added Calloway.