If championships are the measure of athletic success, then 11-year-old Caroline Whisenhunt has already knocked her softball career out of the park.
While most kids her age spent their summer days frequenting the community pool and daydreaming about flavored ice and other cool treats, the Simmons Middle School sixth-grader was hard at work.
This summer, Whisenhunt led the Birmingham Vipers ’04 fastpitch softball team to the Amateur Softball Association 10-U National Championship, pitching a complete game five-hitter in the tournament’s decisive contest.
“It feels good because most people in their life don’t get to be a national champion, and so I’m just happy that I can and that I did it,” Caroline said.
Facing the Heartland (Illinois) Havoc in the ASA national championship game held on July 30 in Normal, Ill., Whisenhunt limited opposing batters to five hits and three runs, displaying her uncanny ability to maintain composure under high-pressure circumstances.
“Between innings, we saw her dancing on the pitcher’s mound to a song being played,” said Caroline’s mother, Amanda Whisenhunt. “With her parents on the other side of the fence with knots in their stomachs, Caroline is cool as can be.”
In addition to her phenomenal pitching performance, Caroline also laced three hits and produced four RBIs, spurring her team both offensively and defensively to the title-clinching 8-3 victory.
Equipped with a rocket arm — her fastball nears 50 mph — and a natural feel for the game, Caroline’s prowess on the diamond can be at least partially attributed to genetics. Her father, Todd Whisenhunt, played baseball collegiately at Birmingham-Southern, splitting time between first base and the pitcher’s mound.
Her brothers Will, 13, and John, 8, also devote at least one season per year to the national pastime.
Caroline began following the family footsteps when she was 4 years old, playing her first four years of organized softball at the Hoover Sports Park Central. Although her parents didn’t know how she would initially respond, it didn’t take long to realize that Caroline embodied a unique love, and knack, for the game.
“I thought that she wanted to play softball when she started just because her big brother did,” Whisenhunt said. “I never dreamed that she would have the passion and talent for it like she does. It’s really surprised me how she’s taken it so far.”
Possessing a rare physical skill set and an elevated softball IQ, Caroline’s future looks exceptionally bright. To supplement her big bat and confounding rotation of pitches — fastball, changeup, drop ball, screwball — Caroline excels at third base, holding down the hot corner in a way very few girls her age can.
“She knows what needs to happen when it needs to happen,” Whisenhunt said. “She’s into the game.”
Caroline’s athletic journey is only just beginning. As a Simmons sixth-grader, she’s not even eligible to represent her middle school for another year.
But that doesn’t mean she’s not looking toward the future. After carrying on the athletic tradition at Hoover High School, the future Buc hopes to play collegiately at either Alabama or Florida.
“Kids are starting to get scholarships in softball at the age of 13 and 14 now,” Whisenhunt said. “It seems so far away, but it’s really not.”