Toast of the Coast

What pressure? Hemingway finds no issue in following siblings’ legacy of excellence

Toast of the Coast: Neci Hemingway

Neci Hemingway continued her family's tradition of excellence in athletics this past softball season, earning Region VI-5A Player of the Year and Class 5A all-state honors.
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Neci Hemingway continued her family's tradition of excellence in athletics this past softball season, earning Region VI-5A Player of the Year and Class 5A all-state honors.

Simply being a Hemingway brings its own share of expectations.

Such particularly holds true for the children of Kenneth and Lena, their brand of the “Hemingway Hustle” dripping from the couple’s oldest pair — Shamae, a Coker College women’s hoops legend and current Conway High girls basketball coach; and Junior, who starred at Michigan and played three years in the NFL — to the two currently donning the green and gold.

While the youngest of the bunch, Tonka, is already making an impact in three sports — earning a scholarship offer to South Carolina in football, along with being a member of the Conway boys basketball and baseball teams — this spring belonged to his older sister, Neci.

In the 2017 softball season, she batted .422, leading the Tigers with eight home runs and 29 RBIs. Neci Hemingway’s biggest contribution may have come on the mound, however, where she was 14-5 and a key cog in the program winning its first region title.

“Neci does so many things well,” Conway softball coach Mike Skipper said. “Her work ethic is her strength, as she prepares year-round for basketball and softball.

“Even though she is known as a long-ball hitter, she strikes out very little. She can beat teams in a variety of ways.”

Her work this past spring earned the junior pitcher Region VI-5A Player of the Year honors to go along with all-state recognition, the second straight year in which she’s been voted among South Carolina’s best.

Add another accolade to her already lofty list, as Neci Hemingway is The Sun News’ 2017 Toast of the Coast Softball Player of the Year.

“(This season) meant a lot, because as a team we wanted to make it memorable for the seniors,” she said. “The seniors wanted to go farther than they did last year.”

And that the Tigers did.

You can tell when she comes out to the practice field that she wants to be better than she was the day before, and that sets a good example for the rest of our girls.

Conway softball coach Mike Skipper on junior standout Neci Hemingway

To go along with a Region VII-4A championship, Conway continued its push come playoff time by claiming a district title and berth in the Lower State 5A softball tournament.

No time did Hemingway’s star shine more prominently than in the district final round against Fort Dorchester. The Tigers’ postseason lives dependent upon her effectiveness in the circle, the junior hurler went the distance twice — giving up three runs in a total of 14 innings — in the span of a night to see her team through to the next round.

“I told (Skipper) whatever he wanted to do, he can do it … he’s the coach,” Neci Hemingway said. “But I also told him I was feeling good.

“(Skipper said) it was up to me I wanted to come off the mound. I made the choice the stay on.”

According to Skipper, it’s a matter of all her hard work paying off.

“Everything Neci is getting didn’t come easily, she’s worked for it,” he said. “You can tell when she comes out to the practice field that she wants to be better than she was the day before, and that sets a good example for the rest of our girls.”

While softball holds a special place in her heart, basketball also has occupancy. This past hoops season, she earned all-Region VI-5A honors while helping Conway to its first league title in more than 30 years.

“Really I don’t have a choice … I’m kind of stuck between (basketball and softball),” she said.

Eventually, the day will come where she’ll have to decide between the two. This day, however, is going to be much like any other.

“It’s the ‘Hemingway Hustle,’ ” she said.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

Editor’s note

This is the ninth installment in a 10-day series honoring the top athletes from the spring high school sports season. Tomorrow: Baseball.

2017 Toast of the Coast Softball Team

Player of the Year

Neci Hemingway

School: Conway

Year: Junior

Notable: Batted .422 this past season with eight home runs and 29 RBIs, while pitching her way to a 14-5 record en route to leading the Tigers to a Region VI-5A title. Was voted Region VI-5A Player of the Year and Class 5A all-state recognition.

Skye Bailey

School: St. James

Year: Sophomore

Notable: A first team all-Region VII-4A performer at first base, she batted .447 with three home runs and 23 RBIs. She also had a .974 fielding percentage, with 144 put-outs on the season.

Serrah Ballard

School: North Myrtle Beach

Year: Sophomore

Notable: The Chiefs’ pitcher and third baseman batted .410 this past season, helping her team finish second in Region VII-4A.

Taylor Charlton

School: Aynor

Year: Senior

Notable: A Winthrop signee, the Blue Jacket upperclassman was named Region VI-3A Player of the Year, in addition to earning Class 3A all-state and North-South all-star recognition. This past season, she batted .479 with 26 RBIs and eight stolen bases to go along with 25 runs scored. She struck out only once all season.

McKenzie Coble

School: Myrtle Beach

Year: Junior

Notable: The Seahawks catcher and shortstop batted .435 with a three home runs and a team-high 32 RBIs. For her work, she was named a first team Region VII-4A performer.

Alexis Cox

School: Green Sea Floyds

Year: Freshman

Notable: Batted .621 with 17 total extra-base hits — including three home runs — and 24 RBIs this past season for the Trojans en route to a Lower State A tournament appearance. She also had an .878 fielding percentage.

Cissy Doolittle

School: North Myrtle Beach

Year: Junior

Notable: An all-Region VII-4A performer, she finished the season 8-3 as a pitcher for the Chiefs, in addition to seeing time at first base. She also batted .385 this past softball campaign.

Brooke Elliott

School: Aynor

Year: Senior

Notable: The Francis Marion signee earned all-Region VI-3A recognition for the fourth consecutive year, batting .480 with 16 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. She also finished with an 8-1 record in the pitcher’s circle, with an ERA of 2.11 and a no-hitter to her credit.

Dominique Gross

School: St. James

Year: Senior

Notable: Earned Region VII-4A Player of the Year honors along with being recognized as a Class 4A all-state performer and North-South all-star.

Hailey LeDuc

School: Socastee

Year: Senior

Notable: The Braves’ senior standout was a key cog in the team’s run to the Class 5A playoffs this past season.

Rachel Lindaberry

School: Carolina Forest

Year: Sophomore

Notable: Batted .429 this past season, including nine doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs. This past season she had a .493 on-base percentage.

Taylor Richardson

School: Conway

Year: Junior

Notable: An all-Region VII-4A and Class 5A all-state performer, she batted .422 with four home runs and 16 RBIs, in addition to leading her team with four triples.

Cayce Roberts

School: Myrtle Beach

Year: Sophomore

Notable: Primarily used as a utility player, she led the Seahawks in batting with a .487 average, scoring 29 runs, earning 10 doubles and stealing 18 bases, leading up to her being named an all-Region VII-4A and Class 4A all-state performer.

Kristen Vause

School: Georgetown

Year: Senior

Notable: A North-South all-star for the Bulldogs, she pitched in the large share of her team’s games, earning a no-hitter early on in the season.

Coach of the Year

Mike Skipper

School: Conway

Notable: Led the Tigers to the program’s first Region VI-5A title, and a district championship.

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