Seven Innings with Sarah Gandy
It's hard — and a little sad — to imagine, but when the doors open for the 2013-14 Sterlington High school year, Sarah Gandy will not be among the incoming students.
“Smiling Sarah,” as one of her friends refers to the pleasant Gandy, has made the most of her six years on campus.
There's bound to be something left out, but here's a list of Gandy's accomplishments and activities over the years:
n Breaking into the starting lineup as a seventh grader, she is a five-time All-District honoree, has won or shared the District MVP award three times and has earned first-team All-State honors the past two seasons.
* A three-time All-American, Gandy recently completed her fourth year as a varsity cheerleader.
* She was crowned as Sterlington High's homecoming queen in the fall.
* She won the title of Distinguished Young Woman (formerly Junior Miss) for the State of Louisiana last summer in Alexandria.
* While achieving all of the above, she has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and scored 29 on the ACT.
Jack Goode, the Lady Panthers' first-year softball coach has quickly come to understand why Gandy is successful on the diamond and off.
“Sarah just out-works everybody else,” Goode said.
On a team that has struggled through a 2-8 start against a challenging schedule, Gandy has been a steadying influence.
“The one thing that comes to my mind when I think about Sarah Gandy is that she leads by example,” Goode said. “Even at practice, she runs on and off the field. You can tell she really loves the game.
Without saying a word, she just goes about her business and does everything the right way.”
Individually, Gandy is in the midst of another stellar season. Despite a sparkling 0.68 earned run average, she won only one of her first six decisions.
“It's still early in the season and she's getting better every time she pitches,” Goode said. “She's locating her pitches better. She's right on schedule. By the time the playoffs get here, she ought to be in top form.”
Gandy is already in top form offensively. Batting from her customary leadoff slot, she has a .400 batting average and is a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases.
Gandy also plays shortstop, flip-flopping with Taylor Wilson, and has played in the outfield for the first time in her career this season when Chelbi Johnson pitches.
“It's nice to have two players like Sarah and Taylor that can play those two positions and be good at it,” Goode said. “She has even played in the outfield, which makes us better defensively.”
Sarah's brother set high standards to follow. Stephen Gandy, a former SHS valedictorian and All-State third baseman, is now a senior outfielder at Louisiana Tech. Needless to say, little sister has proven more than worthy of carrying the family torch.
Top 1st: When did you start playing softball?
Sarah Gandy: I started when I was a toddler. I played T-Ball and all that.
Bottom 1st: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of softball?
Gandy: My favorite part is batting leadoff. My job is to be the first one on base. When I can get on base and score the first run, I love that.
I don't really have a least favorite part.
Top 2nd: How have you been able to juggle so many activities and maintain a 4.0 gpa?
Gandy: My parents (Butch and Arlene Gandy) always taught my brother and me that school came first.
I try to get all my work done in class before going to practice so I don't fall behind. I usually don't have that much homework because I try to get most of it done in school.
Bottom 2nd: What has gone wrong for the Lady Panthers this season?
Gandy: We've played a tough schedule, so we've just tried to learn from our mistakes. Not all of our losses have been to bigger schools — we should have won some of those games. But we're not getting down and we're getting better.
Top 3rd: How difficult has it been to go through a coaching change during your senior year?
Gandy: It was kind of difficult because coach (Boyd) Cole and coach Goode have two completely different personalities. We all miss coach Cole, but I'm excited about playing for coach Goode. I'm going to be happy and I'm going to try my best no matter what, so it's going to be good. Coach Goode works well with us.
Bottom 3rd: How big of an adjustment was it to change catchers after having Caitlin Dupree behind the plate for five years?
Gandy: It's been a change because Caitlin was our catcher for so long, but we're all working together.
For her first year and not having much experience catching, Hannah (Harrell) is really doing good. Alex (McMorris) and Haley Yarbrough have been catching some and doing a good job, too.
All of our catchers have been working really hard.
Top 4th: You were really locked in last year during the playoffs, hitting four home runs in three games. What was it like to go through a stretch like that?
Gandy: It was awesome. It feels great to hit a home run, but I can't let it affect my next at bat. I just try to get a base hit. You can't go up there trying to kill it because sometimes it doesn't work out as planned.
Bottom 4th: Who's the better hitter — you or Stephen?
Gandy: (Laughing) We're really competitive. I'll tell him when I hit a home run and he'll tell me what he did.
We congratulate each other when we have a good game. It's always a competition, though.
I don't think there's clearly a better one. I think he knows I have him beat, though.
Top 5th: What does being Louisiana's Distinguished Young Woman involve?
Gandy: It's a scholarship program. Basically, I just have to keep my grades up, try to be a role model and get other girls involved in the Junior Miss program.
Bottom 5th: Tell us about your summer vacation plans?
Gandy: Ms. (Angela) Shepherd, who teaches Spanish, is sponsoring a trip to Europe. We're going to Paris, Rome and London. I'm so excited!
Top 6th: How do you spend a typical school day?
Gandy: I'm taking harder classes, but I get out at lunch, so it's not as much stress this year. I have Calculus, a Psychology dual enrollment class, a PALS class where I'm a tutor and Physics.
I get to go home and eat lunch, which is good because I don't have to spend my money and I get a home-cooked meal. It also gives me a chance to do homework between school and practice.
Bottom 6th: What are you going to miss the most about playing high school softball?
Gandy: The people. A lot of my friends that I have played with have already graduated. I've only been playing with some of these girls for a couple of years, but we're coming together as a team.
I'm going to miss this school because I've been here for so long. I know my way around and how everything works. For the past six years, this has been my home away from home. I've been here all day, every day, but it's always good to experience new things.
Top 7th: Outside of softball, what is something you hope to accomplish before you graduate?
Gandy: I want to try to keep my 4.0 and be valedictorian. Sometimes the spring can get a little hectic with all the softball.
Bottom 7th: What are your future plans?
Gandy: I plan on going to (La.) Tech or Northwestern (State) and majoring in communications or marketing and seeing where that takes me. I'm not dead set on my plans. I'm just going to try to get past the first semester and kind of sort things out.
I always thought I would go into the medical field, but I really think I would like business more. I'm not sure what job I want to do, but I know I'll find something I'll enjoy doing.