Monday, November 14, 2016

Anna Cross Steps Into Justin's World

When I talked to Louisiana Tech pitching coach Mike Forsythe at the start of the 2016 season, he exulted to me about two players. One was a freshman that he said was a sleeper on the national level and the second was then-senior third baseman Anna Cross. "She's going to be a great asset in the circle for us," Forsythe said of Cross.

I had to do a double take - Anna Cross? The power-hitting infielder had been a both-ways player early in her career, but had posted a near-6.00 ERA in limited action in her sophomore season and didn't even see the circle in 2015. But Forsythe was serious, and his eyes almost sparkled as he said it. "She's going to be good when we need her to," he said.

Cross again did see limited action in the circle; though in her final season in Ruston, she cemented Forsythe's faith in her, posting her career-low ERA and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. She made her presence felt on the offensive side of the ball, as well, leading her squad with fourteen home runs and a .639 slugging percentage, though her batting average of .314 ranked just fourth on the squad's statistical charts.

The Texas native has the distinction of being one of just a handful of players to earn all-conference honors in two separate leagues, garnering first-team accolades in 2013 when the Lady Techsters were part of the Western Athletic ("WAC") Conference and earning a second-team Conference USA nod in her senior campaign.

Anna and I discussed many aspects of her career, including:

  • Her father's undying support during her career
  • Retaking the pitching circle after not pitching for more than a year
  • How she balances pitching and hitting and if one benefits from the other
  • Her favorite career memory

Justin's World: How did you get started playing softball?
Anna Cross: I want to say I got started playing softball around the age of 5 or 6; I started in a local league in Athens, Texas. I went to an All Star Tournament when I was 8 years old and got picked up on a travel team, Sneaky Cleats, when I was 8.

Justin's World: Why Louisiana Tech? What brought you to Ruston?
Anna Cross: I was seen by Coach Dawson, the former Louisiana Tech softball coach, and she asked me to come to a summer camp the summer before my senior year of high school. I had not committed to a school yet, but had some in mind. I fell in love with Louisiana Tech. It wasn’t too big or too small. It felt like home. So I made it my home for the next four years and I could have never made a better decision! I love my little Ruston town and I will forever loyal be!

Justin's World: I've read that your dad attended the vast majority of your college games, even away games. Tell me what having not just his emotional support, but him right there, in the crowd constantly, meant to you.
Anna Cross: It’s been me and my pops in this softball ride my whole life, and having my best friend there at every game was the coolest experience any daughter would want. It meant the world to me. I would look up every game and knew that this is what WE worked for my whole life. He barely ever missed a game. When he did, you can bet your bottom dollar he was on every social media site getting updated. Oh, and every parent that was there… their phones were getting blown up!! All in all, it was truly amazing.

Justin's World: You pitched a good bit in your first two seasons, but did not take the circle in your junior year. Was it tough to shake off a bit of rust in your senior season, climbing back into the saddle, so to speak, or was it just like riding a bike?
Anna Cross: To be honest, it was like riding a bike; might not have looked like it some games, but it’s something I did my whole life. I haven’t really played any other major position than pitching before college.  I mean, that’s what I got recruited for...  My junior year, I did get a lot of coaches asking why I wasn’t pitching anymore and I would simply tell them “it's not what the team needs me to do”,  but it was fun getting to do it one more time before my career ended.

Justin's World: Do you think pitching regularly helps you when you’re at the plate on offense and vice-versa, does being an offensive player help you when you’re in the circle?
Anna Cross: It depends, really; I don’t think pitching makes me hit better. But I feel like they are opposite to each other… when I am pitching really well one game, I'm probably not hitting as well, to be honest. Vice-versa. But I have had some games where I am so zoned in on pitching that I take that into the box as well. That's kind of a confusing answer!

Justin's World: Who was toughest opponent you faced, either individual or team?
Anna Cross: This is a tough one, but I would say the biggest opponent is always yourself. Being the best you that you can be is always your challenge.

Justin's World: What would you call your “favorite moment” from your career?
Anna Cross: There is no “moment” that is my favorite; I have so many, You can say my life on the Louisiana Tech softball team was my favorite moment because it flew by so fast. Every detail and every memory does not top one or another. I have some that shine brighter than others, but I loved every single thing about my ride at Louisiana Tech. BUT watching all my teammates drop so many bombs at my graduation game (I didn’t get to walk [at graduation] because we were [playing at] LSU, so I had a game where they gave me my diploma) was pretty dang cool!

Justin's World: If given the opportunity to go back and relive or redo one moment, one experience, one play from your college career, would you? If so, what would you want to go back and experience again?
Anna Cross: If I had to choose a play to redo, everyone knows that it would be the play at the [2016 Conference USA] conference tournament; I would choose not to throw the ball that hit our pitcher Bailey Allen in the head. Probably too soon, but it's the truth.

Justin's World: Tell me about your future plans, both involved and not involved with the game of softball.
Anna Cross: My future plans would probably be [to become] a CFA, Certified Financial Adviser. Sooner or later! Play some slowpitch softball to relive the glory days! And of course, come back and see seasons of Louisiana Tech softball; have a family; and probably get Kit, my very awesome cat, a friend!

Justin's World: Let’s set a scene here for a moment: Say you’re stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but you can take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits, but anything else tangible goes. What would you take?
Anna Cross: Kit, my cat, of course; my Bible; and a fishing pole.

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