Pitcher, MVP in state championship game and 3A Pitcher of the Year
By Jacob Kisamore
Special to The Alamance News
Southern High School graduate Isley Duggins is on her way to Elon University to play softball this fall, but she will live forever in her high school’s lore for what she did in May’s 3A softball state championship series.
Needing just one more out to secure the state softball championship for her team, Duggins, then a senior pitcher, stepped to the mound thinking about the implications of what she hoped was the last at-bat of her high school career.
“I was thinking this could possibly be the last batter I’ll face in my high school career, and we could win the state championship right now,” Duggins said. “I just tried to think of it as just another batter, but my mind was racing.”
on going out on top:
“To be able to go out basically on top was something I couldn’t have written better myself. We had the medals, we had the banner, we had the trophy, we had everything, but it was still like, ‘Did we really just do that? And is it really over?’” – SHS pitcher Isley Duggins
Duggins calmed her nerves and struck out the final batter to ice an 11-3 victory over Alexander Central in the decisive third game of the state 3A championship series on May 15, claiming the eighth state softball championship for Southern Alamance and its first since 2004.
“To be able to go out basically on top was something I couldn’t have written better myself,” Duggins said. “We had the medals, we had the banner, we had the trophy, we had everything, but it was still like, ‘Did we really just do that? And is it really over?’”
Having thrown a no-hitter in game two and a complete game in game three, Duggins was named MVP of the state championship series, an accomplishment of which she is very proud.
“For me, that was an indescribable award to get, it is probably the best thing you can get in high school softball,” Duggins said.
As the only senior on the championship team, Duggins served as a leader for her teammates. She channeled past playoff experience to help the younger players on Southern’s roster deal with loud crowds and pressure situations.
While she enjoyed sharing a veteran’s knowledge with her teammates, she admits she received a lot of support from them as well throughout the playoffs that helped her stay inspired.
“To be the only senior was bittersweet because all of them looked up to me, but they also had my back no matter what, and I knew that every time we would win a game, they would say ‘This one’s for you, we got it for you,’ and that meant so much to me,” Duggins said.
For her performance last season, Duggins was also named the 2021 NCHSAA 3A Pitcher of the Year, an honor she said was a “surprise.”
“When those awards came out, I was like ‘Wow, this season just keeps getting better,’” Duggins said.
Duggins will continue her career as a pitcher for Elon University’s varsity softball team, choosing the school over Liberty, Appalachian State and UNC Wilmington. She is currently undecided on a major but said she plans on studying something related to business.
“I wanted to go there ever since I started pitching really because I loved everyone there, so it wasn’t a very hard decision for me, honestly,” Duggins said.
Isley’s mother (Robin) also played softball at Elon University from 1994 to 1998 as an outfielder. She said she is looking forward to playing at her mom’s alma mater and is happy that her family will have the chance to attend all her home games.
“It’s pretty exciting, especially since we still live around here,” Duggins said. “It is pretty cool to be able to follow her footsteps.”
Duggins began pitching when she was five years old and participated in several pitching camps at Elon University growing up. She began receiving pitching lessons from former Elon coach Jessica Jacobson in fifth grade and while she said the training sessions were “rough at first,” she chose to stick with it and continued to work hard to improve.
“It was rough taking lessons from her at first and she was like ‘If you want to be good, you just have to practice and keep going.’ So that’s what me and my dad did, and from there, I kept getting better and better,” Duggins said.
ON BEING THE PITCHER – and in control:
“I like being able to control the game in a way and control where the ball goes. When you are playing another position, you have to go with whatever the pitcher is doing, so I have always liked being able to control what happens.”
– SHS pitcher Isley Duggins
While she will also take at-bats in college, she said she will devote most of her energy toward her pitching, which is her favorite aspect of softball.
“I like being able to control the game in a way and control where the ball goes,” Duggins said. “When you are playing another position, you have to go with whatever the pitcher is doing, so I have always liked being able to control what happens.”
Duggins also participated in travel softball and was most recently a member of Carolina Elite Frye. She also played volleyball all four of her years at Southern Alamance. She was also a member of the school’s FFA, Relay for Life, Unified Champions and BECA chapters.
“My biggest takeaway is to play for your teammates, not yourself. You will have a good outcome if everyone on the team plays for each other.” – SHS pitcher Isley Duggins
Duggins said the most important thing she learned while playing softball at Southern was the value of teamwork and embracing team spirit.
“My biggest takeaway is to play for your teammates, not yourself,” Duggins said. “You will have a good outcome if everyone on the team plays for each other.”
Duggins said she hopes to make an instant impact on Elon’s softball team, which has not won a conference championship since 2010.
“Over the course of my career, I want to be able to pitch in big games and do well,” Duggins said. “My main goal this year is just to work really hard to be able to get in some games in the spring.”
Duggins is the daughter of Jon and Robin Duggins of Burlington.
See other recent coverage of the county’s best high school athletes:
Mebane council honors state female golfing champion from EHS: https://alamancenews.com/teen-champion-golfer-honored-by-city-council/
Western swim captain heading to Drexel: https://alamancenews.com/western-alamance-swimmer-to-compete-for-drexel-university-in-college/
Eastern softball star will play for Rutgers: https://alamancenews.com/eastern-alamance-graduate-excited-to-play-college-softball-at-rutgers/