HUDSON — The same Under Armour shirt has accompanied Jillion McElderry to every game for the past four years. It has a huge tear along the right side, but she still thinks it’s lucky.
She may be right.
McElderry has struck out 44 batters in her last 18 innings, and racked up a perfect game against rival Hudson, to keep Fivay (6-3, 3-3) a contender in Class 5A, District 8.
“Her stats are pretty incredible for one person,” Fivay coach Greg Bollinger said. “She’s done a good job. She leads the team in about every stat.”
When she was 6 years old, McElderry started as an infielder in Little League. Five years later, her team needed a pitcher, so she made the switch.
“I started pitching, and I just fell in love with it,” said McElderry, who signed her letter of intent with State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota in February said.
Bollinger said McElderry, who has appeared at pitcher, centerfield and shortstop for the Falcons, is one of the team’s top athletes.
“She can play anywhere you need her,” Bollinger said.
The contest against Hudson was McElderry’s second perfect game this season. She struck out 15 batters against Anclote and 14 against Zephyrhills.
Still, the senior said Anclote wasn’t one of her better games.
Instead she points to a loss against Dunedin. She didn’t earn a strikeout, but given the quality of Dunedin’s players, she was proud of her 2.00 ERA and number of groundouts.
“I’m sure she’s probably better than what she even thinks she is,” Bollinger said. “She’s sometimes her worst critic. She does a lot for this team.”
Bollinger said teammates follow McElderry’s example and look to her for guidance.
With so many girls on the team graduating this year — five of the Falcons’ 11 players — McElderry said the seniors have bonded with the underclassmen more than in previous seasons.
The Falcons have a unique situation. The seniors all played varsity together since the school opened four years ago.
It would have been simple for McElderry to ease up on herself. She started the season with her letter of intent signed and impressive records from three years of varsity play.
But she wants to top all of her records from last year.
She ended the 2013 season with 226 strikeouts, 30 runs, 10 wins and a 1.56 ERA. So far this season, she has 95 strikeouts, 13 runs, six wins and a 1.31 ERA.
When it’s time for the team to choose an MVP, Bollinger said McElderry is an obvious choice.
“She means as much for this team as any player does for any team,” he said.
Mary Kenney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @maryknews.