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Pay-off Pitch: Hard work, determination gets results for ECHS pitcher

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
Thanks to her arm, Melissa Jones has some decisions to make this summer.
The Escambia County High School Lady Devils' starting pitcher has put up some strong numbers during her varsity career and now she is looking to keep the streak going in college. The only problem is deciding which school it will be.
She has been offered scholarships to play softball for numerous schools including Huntingdon College, Judson College, Central Alabama Community College and Bishop-Mobile. Currently, she is leaning toward accepting a spot on the Palm Beach Community College roster.
Jones began her softball career at the age of five when she played for city league teams. At first, she was pitching slow pitch, but at the age of 10, she began making the transition to fast pitch with the encouragement of her mother.
When she made the decision to become a pitcher, Jones became totally committed to improving.
The hard work paid off big dividends too. During her senior year she had an earned run average of 1.21 and held opposing batters to a batting average of .179 while racking up 20 victories.
She also proved to be a workhorse as she pitched in almost every game for the Lady Devils for a total of 236.2 innings. In facing 967 batters, she allowed only 164 hits and 44 walks. She struck out 287 of them.
For Jones, the key to her success has been location. She found that precision, not power, was the key while pitching in summer and fall leagues against high-caliber batters, some of which are college players.
Jones also played centerfield for the Lady Devils and in off-season leagues. During her senior year, she had a .333 batting average.
Through her career so far, Jones has racked up many awards. Most recently she was named to the Mobile Press Register's Super Twelve team. Before that, her coaches at ECHS presented her with the Pitcher's Award and a Captain Award for her leadership on the field.
This past season, Jones led the Lady Devils and was named MVP of the Pensacola Catholic High School
Tournament and was on the All-Tounamtent team for the Mary G. Montgomery Tourney in Mobile.
These honors are not taken for granted by Jones. In January of 1999, a fire destroyed many of the trophies she had acquired. Despite being melted, she couldn't bring herself to throw them some of them away.
It seems Jones puts 100 percent into everything she does. Not only does she perform on the mound, she also performs in the classroom. She graduated with honors in May and her grade point average placed her 13th out of 107 seniors.
But, her truest passion lies on the softball field. While her hard work is paying off, she is using her talents to help other girls who want to pitch by assisting a 10 to 12-year-old city league team.
Jones mother, Sharon Harrelson, said her daughter is just as devoted to the growth of the sport as she is to her own successes.
While her mother was the one to encourage her to begin pitching, even she is amazed at her daughter's drive and love for the game.
Hours and hours of practice has brought her much success and it appears she will reach yet another personal milestone when she signs with a college.