Henderson pitches 1,500 strikeouts

By Lanell Downs Smith

The Luverne Journal

Crenshaw Christian Academy senior Abby Henderson has been playing softball since her fifth-grade year. On Feb. 27, coaches stopped the Cougars game against Fort Dale Academy to announce Henderson had achieved her 1,500th career strikeout.

Henderson, who signed a commitment to play for Coastal Carolina University this fall, said reaching the strikeout goal lets her know she is on track to reach her career goals.

“Reaching this goal was definitely a next step for me before college,” Abby Henderson said. “This lets me know I am on the right track.”

Abby’s mom Lisa explained that a strikeout is also called “retiring the batter,” a term used to describe situations when a batter swings and fails to connect with the ball three times in a row.

“A strikeout is when batters have to go back to the dugout and don’t get to bat anymore,” Lisa said. “That’s ‘retiring the batter.’ So, she’s done that 1,500 times since the fifth grade.”

According to CCA assistant softball coach Eddie Billings, Abby has pitched for the Cougars from the beginning of her career and became the team’s lead pitcher in her eighth-grade year. Since then, she has pitched 1,005.1 innings, faced 4,657 batters, and thrown 17,715 pitches. She also caused 374 walks and 1,555 strikeouts and made 331 earned runs, with a batting average of 435.

“Abby has never kept up with the statistics,” Billings said. “For her, it is all about the game. She started playing for the varsity team earlier than most pitchers, however, that was a two edged sword. Her youth and inexperience are notable in her stats earlier in her career. 

“Almost two thirds of her strikeouts come from her 9-12 grade years, and that includes 2020, which was shortened to just 14 games due to COVID. By comparison, over half of the hits surrendered and runs scored come from previous to her ninth grade year.”

Billings said Abby will most likely break 1,750 strikeouts before the season ends. The record will continue through the end of her senior year, and restarts when she enters college in the fall.

Abby pitches roughly 10-15 strikeouts per game and credits her long career at CCA with her ability to earn the achievement.

“This is just my high school record,” Abby said. “I’ve been playing for CCA my whole career. If I keep up the rate of throwing so many strikeouts per game, I will be able to hit 1,750.”

The pitcher’s reputation precedes her in every game. Henderson said that because of her and her teammates’ hard work and dedication, the Cougars are the team other schools dread to face.

“Everybody knows me because I’ve been here so long,” Abby said. “Nobody really wants to face us in tournaments. We always get put up against the hardest teams.

Lisa said watching her daughter reach the goal was exciting. Billings planned the surprise and neither Abby nor her parents expected the announcement during the game.

“It was great,” Lisa said. “We were super excited and we were fortunate to be able to see most of the strikeouts happen. We’ve been to a lot of ball games over the years. Coach Billings let this be a surprise for all of us.”

The Cougars defeated Fort Dale in a 13-3 win that evening and Lisa said Billings plans to preserve the game ball to commemorate this milestone in Abby’s career.