Seven Innings with Shelrika Bryant

As the leadoff batter, Shelrika Bryant's job is to get on base and create RBI opportunities for Bastrop's prolific 3-4-5 hitters (Tia Coleman, Chelsea Fagan and Galen Brooks).

With Bryant and slapper Kenyshae Beasley setting the tone, the Lady Rams are averaging an impressive 8.2 runs per game.

“Shelrika is our spark plug,” Bastrop coach Jennifer Hickman said. “She's our leadoff batter and has really stepped up in the box this year. The way our game starts depends on her. If she's out of sync, it seems like the entire team is out of sync.”

Bryant, who signed with Bossier Parish Community College during the early signing period, has exhibited more pop at the plate this season. Her final regular season stats include career highs in batting average (.333), on base percentage (.433), home runs (2), doubles (7), RBI (21) and runs scored (36). She has also drawn 10 walks, been hit by a team-high nine pitches and stolen six bases in seven attempts.

On a team that is suspect defensively, Bryant plays the all-important shortstop position. Like her teammates, she has experienced some ups and downs defensively. On the other hand, she has made some plays on balls that most of her peers would never reach.

“The team relies on Shelrika to be there offensively and defensively,” said Hickman, a former All-State shortstop for the Lady Rams. “She is a difference maker on defense and saves us a lot of runs. She makes some of the most impressive plays on balls that would normally be hits and result in runs for the other team.”

Bryant is also the Lady Rams' third pitcher. But she is called to the circle only on an emergency basis because Hickman is reluctant to pull her off of shortstop.

Occupying two vital roles as leadoff batter and shortstop, it should come as no surprise that Bryant has assumed a leadership role.

“As coaches, we count on her to lead the team with her actions on defense and offense,” Hickman said. “I'm looking for her to continue this role and carry her team throughout the playoffs.”

Bryant's importance to the Lady Rams hasn't gone unnoticed as she was recently chosen to play in the LHSCA/LSCA All-Star Games to be played May 20-21 at Louisiana College.

T-1: When did you start playing softball?

Shelrika Bryant: When I was 5, I played T-Ball for Lee's Moving Service. We were blue and yellow. Mr. Aubrey Haynes was our coach. I played for him, Mr. Chuck Wilson and Mr. Bobby Haynes the whole time I was in city league.

B-1: What memory stands out from your first season?

Bryant: I danced the whole time. Every time I hit the ball and got on the bag, I started dancing. When somebody hit the ball, I would dance all the way to the next bag.

T-2: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of softball?

Bryant: My favorite parts are winning, team bonding and meeting new people. My least favorite part is the failure.

B-2: How big of an influence were Erma and Rosa on your softball career? (Shelrika's sister, Erma Bryant, started at third base for the Lady Rams while her aunt, Rosa Bryant, was an All-State basketball player).

Bryant: By the time I was 6, I knew if I couldn't hit or stop a ball, I couldn't play softball in the backyard with the older kids. That's why I love to dive and love to slide.

I had to pitch to the older kids, that's how I got my reflexes. I had to learn how to hit because I knew they would have somebody bat for me if I didn't.

I had to learn everything fast.

If I wanted to get in the pool with the older kids, I knew I had to learn how to swim.

I knew I couldn't jump on the trampoline with them if I couldn't flip and do everything they were doing. Nobody likes to jump on the trampoline alone, so I learned how to flip.

T-3: Are you glad you signed early?

Bryant: Yes, I am. Signing early relieved some of the pressure. Before I went to the tryout at BPCC, I didn't think I would sign early. I was thinking, 'Somebody offer me, please.'

I'm glad I don't have to worry about that now.

B-3: What has been the key to the Lady Rams' success this season?

Bryant: Teamwork and minimizing our errors — when we have minimized our errors.

T-4: Who is the best pitcher you have ever faced?

Bryant: Amber Coons from Neville. She struck me out three times this year.

B-4: Do you miss pitching regularly?

Bryant: No, sir! I would like to play first base, though. I love playing shortstop, I just want to try something different.

T-5: Describe what it was like to play in the State Tournament last year.

Bryant: I had to pitch, so it was nerve-racking. I had only pitched in two games all year, and I randomly had to pitch one of the most important ballgames of the season. But I did a pretty good job, I guess.

B-5: What has been the key to getting the program turned around?

Bryant: Coach Hickman. She doesn't teach and coach softball because she can make money from it.

She's sees beyond playing softball. With her, it's not, 'I'm the head softball coach at Bastrop High School.' It's more than that to her.

T-6: What are you going to miss the most about playing high school softball?

Bryant: I'm going to miss coach Hickman, coach (Casey) Beach and coach (Mario) Ard, and the lessons they have taught me.

B-6: What advice would you give to the incoming freshmen?

Bryant: Please don't be late or the coaches will run your tongue out!

Have a positive attitude.

Don't just play to say, 'I play softball at Bastrop High School.'

Play with a mission. Play for a reason.

T-7: What are your future plans?

Bryant: I plan on going to Bossier Parish Community College for two years, then going to Louisiana Tech to study Biology, and then going to dental school.

B-7: Why do you want to be a dentist?

Bryant: I like teeth — I really don't know why.