Archive for Thursday, July 19, 2001

Eudora pitcher redefines boys of summer

Deluna accustomed to being only girl on baseball team

July 19, 2001

She pitches, plays some shortstop and first base, and if you tell her she throws like a girl, she might just take it as a compliment.

Michelle Deluna, 13, does not mind being the only girl on the 13-and-under Eudora Cardinals blue baseball team.

In fact, she has thrived on the competition presented to her during baseball game situations since she cut her teeth on the sport at the age of six.

"I didn't really like softball," Deluna said. "I thought the ball was too big and I couldn't control it. All the guys on my team are mostly supportive of me."

As a 10-year-old in 1998, Deluna set a state record with 12 strikeouts in one game against a team from Nebraska at a regional tournament in Pittsburg. Her performance allowed her team to advance to the state tournament in Parsons.

She became the only girl to pitch in the 9-10 state tournament. Recently, Deluna has excelled as a relief pitcher for Eudora. She has also competed for Bonner Springs teams in past years.

Deluna said the disbelief of her talent among opposing teams, coaches and parents only inspires her to play at a higher level.

"It kind of makes me mad and then I want to throw the ball harder than I usually do," Deluna said.

Deluna's father, Craig Rogers, said he was proud of his daughter and the way she has played against other baseball teams.

Rogers has coached or helped coach some of Deluna's teams during prior seasons.

"She throws the ball harder than most of them and hits the ball better than quite a few of them," Rogers said. "Some parents are skeptical and it throws them off until they see her play."

Deluna cites Cal Ripken as her favorite baseball player. She strives to reach the consistency Ripken epitomizes.

While she counts baseball as her favorite sport, the young Eudora athlete is by no means a one-sport wonder.

Deluna plays point guard for the Lawrence Flames girls AAU basketball team and the Eudora Middle School team.

Last summer she played on another AAU team called the Pony Express from St. Joseph, Mo., that won a regional AAU tournament in Hutchinson and qualified for the national tournament. In the fall season, Deluna plays girls volleyball for EMS.

"When you are the point guard, you are the leader of the team," Deluna said. "AAU is a lot more competitive because you play against teams from other states. The teams are hand-picked and have been together for a couple of years."

Next year, Deluna will enter the hallways of Eudora High School where she will have to make an important decision for her athletic future: to continue to play baseball or compete on the softball team. Either way, she is certain that basketball will be in her future.

"I'm going to try to play baseball (at EHS) but if it doesn't work out, I'll try softball," Deluna said. "If I don't like it, I'll focus on basketball."

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