Sides signs with Guilford
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — The school Color Guard doesn’t appear at a softball game very often, but, then again, you don’t often see the third baseman putting down her glove and belting out the national anthem.
The occasion for the Color Guard was East Rowan’s Senior Day, and the third baseman was Steffi Sides, a four-year varsity starter for the Mustangs and an important part of three NPC championship teams.
The lasting memory fans will have of Sides is that she was the little blonde girl who was part of the anthem-singing duet before East home basketball games (Lauren Thomas was her partner), but her athletic accomplishments have managed to keep pace with her strong voice.
Sides has earned her fourth softball letter this season to go along with three for basketball and two for volleyball.
Softball is definitely her best sport — she’s batting .457 this season — and she’ll continue to play at the college level at Guilford.
“Softball is not something I wanted to give up because I’ve played since I was about 7,” Sides said.
Sides played her first two prep seasons with that strong group that included Division I players Chelsea White (Elon) and Ericka Nesbitt (Campbell). Those Mustangs not only won their league, they played in back-to-back Final Fours in Raleigh.
“So many memories,” Sides said. “The bus rides and the hotel as much as the games.”
As one of East’s senior leaders, Sides has helped the Mustangs scramble back to the top of the NPC this season. East carved out a 10-2 record and swept co-champion North Iredell to earn the league’s No. 1 seed for the 3A state playoffs.
“Steffi’s always been solid, has always been reliable, has always been a good glove,” East coach Mike Waddell said. “She’s always been willing to accept any job we’ve asked her to do, and she’s always done what she’s supposed to do.”
Sides is All-Rowan and All-NPC annually, but there hasn’t been a ton of hype. Guilford found her by accident.
“They were at a showcase tournament watching some of my teammates,” Sides said. “They saw me and that led to my best college opportunity.”
Sides played left field early in her career when East had Mallory Drew to play third base. She’s been primarily a third baseman the last three years, but she also can catch.
“She’s been versatile defensively, and she’s also been able to hit anywhere in our lineup,” Waddell said. “She’s hit at the bottom and at the top. This year, she’s batted sixth a lot.”
Sides makes contact. She’s struck out only four times this season. That’s impressive because the NPC has some quality hurlers and East has faced some outstanding non-conference opposition.
Defensively, Sides enjoys third base. That’s a position where fearlessness is part of the job description in fast-pitch softball, but she’s only been hit in the face once — and that was by a catcher’s throw, not a screaming line drive.
“Third base is all about quick reactions,” she said. “You’ve got to be focused and you’ve got to stay ready or things can go bad in a hurry.”
Sides excels at hurrying.
“We played three games in a row recently, and we also were having dress rehearsals for our Broadway Revue,” Sides said. “It does get busy.”
Sides sang a solo in that Broadway Revue as well as mastering an acting part. She is taking three AP classes now, but even with the time demands of softball, she ranks fourth in East’s senior class.
Besides softball and singing, Sides’ strengths are math and science. She’ll be an ideal recruit for Guilford, a school noted for academics.