"Softball is my life, 24-7," said shortstop Mellena Helms. Her Central Cabarrus Vikings are better off because of it.
Aside from her dedication, Helms is willing to do anything for her team, including changing positions in the field from one season to the next or executing something as simple as a sacrifice bunt.
Despite the unselfishness she shows on the softball diamond, Helms has been named all-conference and all-district twice in her three high school seasons.
A four-year varsity starter, Helms hopes to help Central Cabarrus to its first conference championship since 2007.
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She opened her senior year with a bang, collecting five hits in eight at-bats in the Vikings' first two games. Between a season-opening 9-8 loss to West Stanly and a nine-inning 2-1 victory over South Rowan, Helms belted two doubles and drove in six runs. Her solo home run over the left field fence against the Raiders rocked the scoreboard at Central Cabarrus' field.
Helms doesn't consider herself a power hitter, though. She hit the ball out of the ballpark only twice in each of her first three seasons.
Vikings coach Doug Buckwell said Helms is versatile enough to play any position on the field. Last year, Helms became Central's shortstop after being the top starting pitcher for two years.
Buckwell switched Helms' position, not because of a decline in her pitching skills. It was because Helms was also the team's best option at shortstop, and the Vikings had a capable new pitcher in freshman Kaylee Freeman.
"She made few errors and had a whale of a year," Buckwell said of Helms. "Her best defensive game, she was a vacuum cleaner. Robinson won the game, but I think she had 12 putouts in a row."
Helms was just as solid at the plate, driving in 33 runs in 25 games and batting .460. She capped her year by being named All-South Piedmont Conference and all-district.
It was her pitching skills that helped her land on the varsity team as a freshman in 2009. Helms posted a 2.11 ERA in her first all-conference season and batted .349.
"I didn't expect to start as a freshman," said Helms. "I had pitched some but I wasn't the main pitcher. It was awesome. I liked pitching, just being able to control the game."
She posted similar numbers her sophomore year, finishing with a 2.45 ERA and a .352 batting average. Helms was named to her first all-district team that season.
Her flexibility started with her traveling teams. Helms played primarily outfield and first base for the Carolina Curve for several years, then third base for the Carolina Cardinals the last two seasons.
Helms' versatility is not limited to softball, though. Playing in her only high school basketball season this year, Helms averaged eight points a game as a starting forward.
She helped J.N. Fries Middle to an undefeated basketball season in her eighth-grade year but didn't want to jeopardize her high school softball career by getting injured while playing hoops.
While attending Central Cabarrus, Helms once tried baseball ... in a way. Last year she was instrumental in a fundraising event for the CVAN battered women's shelter and was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Kannapolis Intimidators baseball game when CVAN was being honored.
"It was great to get to do that in front of all the fans," said Helms. "Throwing a baseball is much different, though. I practiced in the backyard with my brother Mitchell. He said I better throw a strike."
As you might expect, the pitch was right down the middle of the plate.