Senior Whitney Sanford draws attention as Lee County’s dominant softball pitcher that is committed to East Carolina. Her surname also is the source of endless comments playing for a high school located in Sanford.
“Oh, gosh, I’m always hearing it,” she said with a laugh. “They ask, ‘Do you own the city?’ I feel like I have a target on my back. And I’m not even from Sanford. I moved here from Laurinburg.”
She doesn’t own the city, but she’s the mayor of Lee County on game days.
Sanford is 8-0 on the season for the 11-1 Yellow Jackets. She has 107 strikeouts in 50 innings and has a 0.28 ERA to lead the Cape Fear Valley 3A Conference leaders (4-0).
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But this year, thanks to her grandfather Jerry Sanford, the attention has been ratcheted up.
Whitney is one of five seniors with a six-foot color head shot photo decorating the left-center field fence that stands 10 feet high with a blue tarp covering it.
Whitney explained she worked out at Orange’s field over the summer and noticed “Fathead”-like photos of Orange players. She mentioned it to her grandfather, who works for a graphic arts business in Laurinburg. When Jerry received approval from coach Miles McCaskill, it wasn’t long before photos were hanging of Whitney and the other four seniors, Jacie Arrington, Anna Beth Adcock, Kalei Sloan and Tessa Wilson.
Arrington, a shortstop committed to Appalachian State that’s hitting .513 with three home runs, laughed at the suggestion the photos created pressure looming over the field.
“No, I love looking at myself,” she said. “Our underclassmen like them too.”
As Lee wrapped up a home win against Pinecrest on March 10, a couple of parents from the visiting team asked a Lee County official about the photos. They were directed to Jerry Sanford, who attended the game, for more information.