Elaine Friel, of Haymarket, Virginia, formerly of Marlinton, was inducted into the Washington Metropolitan Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame February 9.
Her parents, Elmer and Gwennie Friel, of Marlinton, attended the ceremony.
Friel got her start in the world of softball as a young student in Pocahontas County schools.
“It was the only sport available for girls when I was growing up,” Friel said.
She was one of the first girls allowed to play on the previously all boys Little League teams.
“Several girls played the first year we were allowed,” Friel said. “Cheryl Cutlip and I made the Little League All-Star Team. Fuzzy King was our coach. When I was 12 years old, we went to Charleston to play in the state tournaments. I remember that it was the weekend that Elvis died. When it was announced on the radio, our driver had to pull off the road because she was crying.”
As soon as we finished the Little League season, we started playing with a team at Hanover [Shoe], then formed our own team with dad coaching.
That girls team consisted of Friel, Michelle Withers, Rhonda Maddy, Julie Mc- Laughlin, Denise Elza, Rachel Sharp, Sara Oliver, Missy Armstrong, Sheila Wilfong, Debbie Ramsey, and others.
“We kicked everyone’s butt,” Friel said.
Friel turned the “only sport available for girls” into a lifetime passion.
As a result of that passion, fellow player and coach Kelly Mabe, of Pasadena, Maryland, nominated Friel for induction into the Hall of Fame. The list of Friel’s accomplishments covered nearly three pages of the form, and included three World MVP titles, one World Offensive MVP, World All Tournament and World Team MVP.
Mabe summarized Friel’s career:
“Elaine Friel, better known as “E” in softball circles started playing slow pitch in 1976. During this time she was first introduced to the game in an adult women’s league in her hometown of Marlinton, West Virginia. She continued to craft her softball skills in West Virginia until she moved to Northern Virginia in the mid-1980s. She played in Fredericksburg, Virginia, starting in 1987, and in the Stafford County league in the late 80s and early 90s. She also played, on and off, in the Woodbridge League from 1991 through the present, and in the Fairfax Adult Softball league from the early 90s through 2010. Throughout her league experiences, her teams won numerous championships, and she was impressively selected to All Star teams in all of them.
“Elaine quickly became one of the top pitchers on a national level winning various MVP and all-tournament honors. She was well known for throwing a deadly back-spin pitch that was near impossible to hit. She could place the pitch with such ease that ringing up a strikeout was a common occurrence. From 2009 to 2014, Elaine pitched for the Mid-Atlantic Storm. As the defensive catalyst on the mound for the Storm, her World Tournament win-loss record (to include Storm 35 and Over) was an outstanding 27 – 17. Along the way, her Storm team won a USSSA 35 and Over World Championship in 2012. Elaine was the proud recipient of MVP honors for the tournament. Also in 2012, her Storm team finished in fourth place at the extremely competitive USSSA Women’s C World Tournament. She was one of two Storm members named as an all-tournament selection.
“As the coach and fellow player on Storm, I have been honored to play with Elaine. She has been nothing but extraordinary in her efforts on the mound and at the plate. Her determination and grit on the mound is unparalleled. Additionally, her desire to toe the rubber in every game is a testament to her will to win and her ability to face pressure. While Elaine is predominately known for her pitching prowess, it must be said that Elaine was also quite a proficient hitter in the Storm lineup. She had the innate ability to hit to all fields, and regularly came up with big hits when needed the most. She was highly regarded as one of our top offensive weapons throughout the years.”
Friel is a graduate of Pocahontas County High School and Fairmont State University, and is employed by Fairfax County Public Schools as a special education teacher.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at jsgraham@poc ahontastimes.com