Hope Smith has been catching for pitcher Margaret Whitestone since they were paired together on Mooresville Middle's softball team as eighth-graders.
Four years later, the Mooresville High seniors said their familiarity has helped them grow into all-state caliber players.
"We know how each other thinks now," said Smith.
Whitestone is quick to point out how much she trusts Smith's judgment.
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"She does a really good job behind the plate calling pitches," said Whitestone. "She knows most of the time when to call something or when to call something else when a pitch isn't working."
Mooresville coach Lisa Zevan, who has coached the duo since their freshman season as both an assistant and head coach the last two seasons, said Smith, who's hitting a .384 at the plate and has recorded 10 RBIs, means a lot to her Blue Devils.
"She's a silent leader," said Zevan, adding that Smith, along with Whitestone and fellow senior Megan Hillard were named this year's team captains. "She's a force behind the plate. She really knows how to stay focused throughout a whole game."
Zevan added Whitestone, who's 6-2 this year from the pitcher's circle, has also shown a lot of improvement in her overall game.
"She's the intimidator," said Zevan. "She's very aggressive - whether she's pitching, running the bases or hitting the ball."
Whitestone has done well this season, hitting .421, recording13 RBIs and scoring 12 runs to start off the year (as of April 7). Smith said that's due to the pitcher's determination on the softball field.
"She goes hard all the time," said Smith. "When she's in the game that's all she thinks about. ... She's there to win. That's her No. 1 goal."
After Smith and Whitestone led Mooresville to a 9-5, 7-5 record last season and to the school's first trip to the playoffs in five seasons, the duo were named to the N.C. Softball Coaches Association's 4A all-state team.
Both said it was a big honor to be recognized, adding they're using that as motivation to continuing to get better.
"Once you get all-state, you want to push and do it again," said Whitestone, who had 34 strikeouts heading into last Friday's game at Vance.
Zevan said her players' all-state accolades were well-deserved.
"It was a great nod to their career and how hard they have worked," she said.
The Blue Devils (8-3, 6-2 in the I-Meck as of April 7) have had a good season, despite losses to the I-Meck's top two softball teams, Lake Norman and North Mecklenburg.
"We're scoring more runs than we ever have, but also honing down our defense and not giving up too many runs," said Zevan, adding she sees her team having the ability to make a playoff run.
The Blue Devils had outscored their opponents 114-53 heading into last Friday's game.
Zevan said her team has gotten better since last season.
"Our confidence level has improved after having a successful year last year," she said. "I think it's carried over."
Zevan added Mooresville's development comes from the hours of work her players put in during the offseason, as well as an increased focus on hitting this year.
"The girls are putting in the time and it's definitely now showing," said Zevan.
Along with Whitestone and Smith, Hillard, a third baseman, has also been essential for the Blue Devils' success. The three are four-year starters for the team, which returns a lot of young talent, including three sophomores who are already two-year starters.
Smith said team chemistry is also at an all-time high.
"We all get along well and that allows us to play as a team," she said.
The Blue Devils will continue to focus on contending for a I-Meck championship the rest of the way. To do that, Mooresville will have to upset Lake Norman, who defeated the Devils 16-7 early in the month, and surprise the Vikings, who defeated them 7-4 in Huntersville.
Mooresville will take on Lake Norman April 21 and will host North Meck on their senior night May 6.
Whitestone said her Devils, which were tied at second place in the I-Meck last week, will have to give it all they got to have a chance to finish atop the conference.
"We have to go hard and push for seven innings and not get relaxed," she said.
Smith is looking forward to those games.
"We'll get them back next time," she said.