Poole will play for Pfeiffer
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — East Rowan’s Sydney Poole insists her choice of a black-and-gold prom dress was a coincidence, but that color theme carried over to her choice of colleges.
Poole signed with Pfeiffer’s black-and-gold softball program in a festive East media center on Wednesday. There was an official Pfeiffer cake—it looked like it was carved right out of center court at Merner Gym — and there were plenty of balloons, although there may have been even more coaches than balloons.
Actually, records may have been set for most coaches at one signing.
“So many coaches have helped me, and I wouldn’t have gotten here without every one of them,” Poole said. “I wanted them all to be here.”
Two couldn’t make it — East assistant Sandy Basinger and Poole’s long-time pitching coach Sharon Bailey.
Those that did gather included East head coach Mike Waddell, East pitch-caller Lonnie Barrier, assistant Ray Graham — yes, that Ray Graham — Brian Poole, who has the double role of coach/father in Poole’s life, and even Todd McNeely. McNeely is rival West Rowan’s coach, but he coached Poole in travel ball.
Barrier is the one that got her started early. Poole’s big sister, Katelynne, who became a 1,000-point basketball scorer at East, was on Barrier’s team. Sydney was only 4, but Barrier talked Poole’s parents into letting her play softball with her sister rather than signing her up solo for T-Ball.
“It meant my parents could take us both to the same practice, and it worked out OK,” Sydney said with a laugh. “Coach Barrier said he’d always stick with me, and I guess he has.”
Poole loves pitching, but when she arrived at East as a freshman, that wasn’t an option. Chelsea White, who’s now at Elon, is as good a pitcher as the county has had, and she was a junior.
“I wanted to play,” Poole said. “That meant finding another spot.”
That spot turned out to be second base, and she did fine. Poole had travel-ball experience at second and shortstop as well as in the circle.
“She’s capable of playing multiple positions, and that versatility makes her valuable and should really help her out in college,” Waddell said.
White and shortstop Ericka Nesbitt, now at Campbell, were the ringleaders of East teams that reached the Final Four in 2010 and 2011. Poole’s first chance on a big stage came in an impossible situation — after White had been carried from the field after suffering a torn ACL in her last East game.
“I was trying to pitch, and I was crying, and the team was crying,” Poole said. “I remember Ray Graham telling me that it was OK, that whatever happened it was OK. He can get in your head — in a good way — and I got through it.”
East was slightly down in 2012 — its string of NPC championships was interrupted — but it’s come back this season.
The girls who were the kids on those Final Four teams — Poole, Steffi Sides,Ally Mills, Jesse Rummage and Courtney Lyerly — are seniors now, and they’ve led East to a league co-championship and today’s third round of the 3A state playoffs vs. Marvin Ridge.
The 5-foot-9 Poole is a talented athlete. She scored 469 points for East basketball while tackling the toughest defensive assignments.
A good hoops season led into Poole’s great softball season.
“She’s matured a lot as a pitcher through experience,” Waddell said. “She’s been snake-bit as a hitter a little bit, but she’s made solid contact.”
Poole’s best game may have been Tuesday’s 7-1 win against Southwestern Randolph in the second round. That’s a program East has tangled with in the Final Four.
“ I hit my spots, I kept them off-balance, and the whole team was clicking,” Poole said.
Barrier said Poole had everything working against SWR — dropballs, riseballs, curveballs and screwballs.
“I’ve seen Sydney grow up to be a really good ball player,” he said. “She pitched a great game for us against a very good team. They did hit a home run — but that was the only mistake she made.”
Poole’s boyfriend, Roby Holmes, had a choice to make Tuesday. His brother, Noah, was playing baseball for Appalachian State against UNC.
“He really wanted to go to Chapel Hill to see Noah, but he stayed here and cheered for us,” Poole said. “I think he made a good decision.”