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Athlete of the week: Buford pitcher rules the circle in 6-AA

POSTED: October 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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  • Buford softball coach Tony Wolfe discusses his pitcher, Melissa Dickie.

The Region 6-AA softball tournament couldn’t have ended any better for Buford High pitcher Melissa Dickie.

Dickie pitched a one-hitter with six strikeouts to defeat Greater Atlanta Christian 9-1 and lead the Lady Wolves to their second straight region championship.

The win gives Class AA’s top-ranked Buford (27-2-1) the top seed from their region in the Class AA North sectionals, which begin Friday in Dalton. The Lady Wolves will open against Crawford County at 6 p.m.

“It felt good to win that game,” Dickie said. “We just stayed together and worked hard to accomplish it.”
The win was her second against Greater Atlanta Christian in the tournament after pitching a six-strikeout gem en route to a 5-2 win against the Spartans in the opening round.

On the season, Dickie leads Buford pitchers in practically every statistical category, including wins (13), ERA (0.66), strikeouts (93), shutouts (6) and hits allowed (30).

All of this, and she’s only a sophomore.

“She’s done some really good things in her short time with us,” Lady Wolves coach Tony Wolfe said. “We’re really looking forward to the upcoming years with her. She’s been an exceptional pitcher since she arrived.”

Getting to the level Dickie currently plays at in such a short amount of time was not a difficult task. As a freshman, she suffered a toe injury that sidelined her for 22 games.

But getting adjusted to the circle after a long lapse without pitching didn’t take long. In Dickie’s first game back from the injury, she shut out Greater Atlanta Christian 4-0 in the 2007 state semifinals in Columbus.

She has been rolling ever since, pitching 85 innings this season with 13 complete games and six shutouts.

But the job is not done yet, as the state tournament features the hardest opponents Dickie has faced. Unlike last year’s state championship team, she enters the playoffs as one of the players expected to lead Buford back to Columbus for a second straight year.

“Everybody is working hard,” Dickie said. “After winning state last year, we’re at the top of everyone’s list to beat.”

Getting to the top of that list was no easy task, especially for Dickie, who trains year-round to prepare for the season. When she isn’t in a Lady Wolves uniform, she plays for the 16-and-under East Cobb Mad Dogs travel team, along with teammate and fellow sophomore pitcher Karly Fullem, where she faces opponents from around the country.

“I play for them about five or six months out of the year,” Dickie said. “But I’m pitching year-round.”

The hard work has paid off, shown through her domination of region opponents, five of which also finished with winning records this season.

“She has some unique abilities,” Wolfe said. “She throws the ball pretty hard.”

Dickie’s success comes from a combination of power, variety and movement of her pitches. Her pitches include a drop ball, a curveball, a screwball, a rise ball, a changeup and a fastball that registers between 62-64 miles per hour.

“She’ll speed you up and slow you down,” Wolfe said. “She’s a power pitcher that has both velocity and good movement.

“She’s really competitive now. She doesn’t like to lose.”

Despite her competitiveness, Dickie has no problem splitting time as a starting pitcher. She is part of a two-pitcher rotation with Fullem, which has combined for a 25-2 record this year.

“They get along really well,” Wolfe said. “They’re different in their personalities and physical skills, but they’re both unbelievably effective.”

Dickie and Fullem will once again be a tandem as they prepare for the state tournament later this week.

“I think our chances of winning our pretty high if we work hard,” Dickie said.



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