St. Thomas More coach Andria Waguespack calls Miss Softball Bailey Hemphill ‘Once in a lifetime player for a coach’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by APRIL BUFFINGTON -- St. Thomas More's Bailey Hemphill throws the ball to first base against Parkview during Monday night game at Parkview Baptist.

Given her team-first mentality, the decision may not rank as a major revelation.

It was simply St. Thomas More softball All-American Bailey Hemphill staying true to who she is — a standout individual who has always placed team above all else.

The latest example of that approach came this week when Hemphill was one of 36 players selected to participate in the inaugural Premier Girls Fastpitch High School All-American Game in Irvine, California.

“It’s a huge honor to be selected,” said Hemphill, an Alabama signee. “There’s only 36 players selected from the whole country to play. It’s an honor to be considered one of the top players in the country.”

The July 28 all-star game also happens to take place at the time Hemphill’s East Cobb (Georgia) Bullets U18 Gold travel team is scheduled to compete in the Junior Olympic Cup in Atlanta on July 28-30.

Guess which event won out?

“It really wasn’t that tough of a decision,” Hemphill said. “I like playing with my team, and we can win a national championship at the J.O. Cup.

“The all-star game is a huge honor and a huge accomplishment, too. I’d rather go play with my team and win a championship.”

Hemphill said she still has to email PFG organizers of her intentions but looks forward to concluding her travel-ball career with the EC Bullets, whom she’s played with fulltime for the first time this summer.

The Bullets, a top-five national finisher the past two summers, invited Hemphill back after she played with them in a tournament a year ago, an opportunity that’s enabled her to expand her softball horizons.

“This summer will help me play against the best competition and get ready for my career at Alabama,” she said of the Crimson Tide, which advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the 11th time this season. “I’ll be ready for that type of competitiveness when I get there.”

Hemphill returned home late Monday from a seven-game outing with the EC Bullets in the Triple Crown Sports “Zoom into June” Invitational tournament in Helmut, California.

Hemphill, who caught three of the games and served as a designated player in the other four, helped the Bullets to a 5-2 showing. She delivered a dramatic two-run homer in the top of the seventh for a 3-2 victory over the Corona (California) Angels.

“I just went into that at-bat looking for one pitch,” Hemphill said. “She got me the time before, so I was looking for my pitch, and the first pitch it was there. I hit it, and it went out.

“That was a huge win for us,” Hemphill said. “They’re a top-notch team every year. They’re ranked high. Some of the best teams in California were there. We just wanted to go and compete.”

The remainder of the month for Hemphill includes trips with the EC Bullets to Orlando, Florida this weekend and Aurora, Colorado, for the TCS Colorado Fireworks after that.

That will be followed July 11-17 with a visit to Randall’s Island Park, New York for the USA Nationals and the Junior Olympic Cup serving as her travel-ball finale.

“It’s awesome,” said Hemphill, who goes through orientation at Alabama at the end of June and begins classes in August. “Without softball, I may not have ever left the state of Louisiana. It’s been awesome going to some of these places every summer.”