This time it meant a little bit more.
It should have, and even at the age of 17, Olivia Farmer knew that. We always cherish the last time. We want it to linger — to last forever.
That was Farmer, who not only embraced her final season on the diamond, her last waltz with high school sports, she devoured it.
“I just wanted to do everything I could,’’ said Farmer, who went out with a blaze on the softball field at Mildred, where she left a legacy that will long be remembered. “I knew it was my last year, and I wanted to do more.’’
It would be easier to list what she didn’t do. That’s the kind of season Farmer had, a season that earned her the Daily Sun’s Krista Armstrong Softball Player of the Year award.
Farmer not only hit .621, but she drove in 52 runs on 54 hits and stole 35 bases. Her range and rifle arm made her the best outfielder in the Golden Circle and her savvy on the bases helped her score 40 runs.
All those numbers are mind-boggling, but that’s only part of Farmer’s story. She pitched and went 6-4 with a 1.51 ERA and 63 strikeouts.
There’s an old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs plays all nine positions on the field at once. Farmer can relate, and so can her coach.
“She played wherever we needed her to play,’’ Mildred softball coach Billy Dan Chambleiss said. “She pitched and played third base and right field and she’ll play center field in college. She’s got a great arm and great speed and she has a great approach at the plate.’’
Farmer was part of a three-pitcher rotation and filled in at third base and right field when the other Mildred pitchers were on the mound, but everyone knows she can play anywhere.
Farmer has always been a star on the diamond but she grew into a better hitter at the plate this year through a new and more-disciplined approach. It’s scary when a five-tool player gets smarter, but that’s exactly what happened to Farmer.
“Her approach at the plate really carried her this year,’’ Chambleiss said. “From her junior year to her senior year she got better at the plate. She looks for her pitch and she is strong from the middle part of the plate in, going to right and right-center field.’’
Three of Farmer’s six home runs went to the opposite field, but that’s only the beginning of what she did for Mildred, which made its deepest run in the playoffs.
“It’s still hard to talk about,’’ said Farmer, her voice cracking a bit as she remembered Mildred’s final game. “I really thought we were going to go further. It’s hard. We were a family. That’s the closest I’ve ever been on a team.’’
She was the clutch hitter on a team loaded with hitters, and her presence made the difference time and time again.
“You could feel it in the crowd and hear it in the crowd,’’ her father Shane said. “When she would come up to bat everyone expected her to get a hit. People would say, ‘all right, Olivia is coming up. Something is going to happen.’ I felt confident every time she was hitting. I don’t know how she did it. I couldn’t have done it.’’
It was the same in the dugout.
“When Olivia was up everyone in the dugout would get up and we would be on our feet,’’ said Maddie Moore, a freshman left fielder for Mildred. “When it was a close game, we knew she would come through. I knew she would do it. She has the heart to do it.’’
Farmer left her mark on every kid on the team.
“Everyone looked up to Olivia,’’ Moore said. “If there was a job to be done, she did it. She will be missed. She will be missed as much as you can possibly miss anyone.”
Softball was always Farmer’s favorite sport, from as early as her T-ball days when she was 4-years-old playing on the boys team. She has emerged as a mullti-sport star at Mildred, but softball — the first sport she played as barely more than a toddler — will be the sport she plays in the future.
Farmer has already accepted a scholarship to Navarro College.
“I don’t know what recruiting is supposed to be like, but this was pretty easy,’’ Shane Farmer said. “She has always wanted to play at Navarro.’’
And she has always wanted to excel, to be the best, to go beyond even the highest expectations — because she demanded more of herself.
That’s the way Farmer has always been, but this was different. This was her final at-bat, both literally and metaphorically, and she appreciated every minute of her brilliant season.
“I knew this was my last season,’’ she said. “In every game, I just wanted to do whatever could do. I knew when the season was over it would be the close for me.’
This time it meant a little bit more.
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