Shelby Shanks has been a model of consistency for the Paul Laurence Dunbar softball team.
A senior third baseman and pitcher, Shanks went 3-for-4 and drew a walk Monday, scoring twice and driving in a pair of runs as her visiting Bulldogs upended Bryan Station 8-3.
Shanks broke into varsity play as a seventh-grader, mostly pitching. By her freshman year, she had found a regular spot at third.
"She's been a contributor every single year," Coach Jenny Dalton Hill said. "Her attitude and her ability far outweigh her age in years. And the ability that she has to lead a team is something that every coach needs on a team, and that's not something you can teach. It just has to come inately."
Hill says that Shanks can lead vocally and by example, depending on what's called for.
"I love being a leader. I love teaching the little girls," Shanks said. "I just want Dunbar to have a good future, and so I want to teach those little girls to be a leader as well."
Shanks entered Monday's game with a .321 batting average, while her pitching line is 2-5 with a 4.97 ERA.
"I definitely am a power hitter," she said. "But I can lay down a bunt every now and then."
Hill describes Shanks as a complete player.
"Shelby's known as a hitter, but she also has the ability to pitch if you need her to take some innings away," Hill said. "As a third baseman, she'll scoop almost everything up. So defensively we like to keep her on a corner, and usually at third.
"Pitching-wise, she's not going to be a dominant force to strike people out, but she rolls a lot of groundballs and gives us some popups. So she's an asset in the circle simply because she eats innings. But she's more dominant at third base."
That dominance has earned Shanks a spot next season at Walters State, a junior college in Tennessee.
"It's a small college, but I really wanted to go somewhere where I could get in and play after I finish high school," Shanks said.
Two years down the road, Shanks would love to come home and play for Kentucky.
"Hopfully," she said. "I really want to come back to Lexington. I love the area."
With Dunbar now 8-11, Shanks has her immediate sites set on a strong finish to set up a post-season run.
"We're really pushing hard," she said. "It doesn't matter what you do in the regular season, but when it comes post-season we're going to buckle down and get the wins."
Monday's win was set up as Dunbar scored in every inning except the fifth.
Bailey Conley singled in a first-inning run, while Shanks delivered a two-run single in the second.
Sydney Arnold singled in a run in the third, and a sacrifice fly by Olivia Judy plated a run in the fourth.
Two runs scored in the sixth via a wild pitch and a groundout, and another came home in the seventh on an error.
Bryan Station (8-10) scored a run in the fifth on a double play.
The Defenders struck twice in the sixth, with Destiny Johnson and Kiersten Coleman delivering an RBI each.
The Dunbar defense turned three double plays.