MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - Tuesday night, hundreds of graduates crossed the stage at Buckhorn High School`s commencement ceremony at the VBC.
Each graduate certainly worked hard for the diplomas, but one in particular powered through the darkest days of her life to achieve something few can ever say they've done.
Every time Zoie Emrick has swung a bat, or thrown an ace pitch, her father has been in the stands bellowing his signature cheer, "Yep! Yep!"
She doesn't remember the first time he used that phrase, but she recalls vividly the day it fell silent.
“He never says my name he’s usually like 'sister come here.' So I went in there and I was talking to him and he was like, 'I’m having trouble breathing,'" remembered Emrick.
What Zoie couldn't have known at the time, was her father, Don Emrick, threw a blood clot and within just a few minutes, passed away in her arms.
“The last thing he told me was he loved me," she said.
After losing her father, Zoie couldn't fathom playing softball without him cheering her on.
“I was on the verge of quitting but Dad, I knew he would want me to finish up my softball career and go onto college to play softball and all that," said Emrick.
She says she found strength in realizing he never truly left.
"I talk to him every pitch, every at bat, everything," she said.
Only a few weeks after losing her father, Buckhorn High made it to the State Championship in Montgomery.
Zoie didn't just play, she soared.
“I decided I’m going all out for Dad. He would want this and he would want him to go all out for him." said Emrick.
The crowd, proudly wearing their "Yep! Yep!" t-shirts, cheered as Zoie threw strike out after strike out.
"It makes my heart just burst. It makes me feel so good,' she said.
Zoie says she saw her dad too, in his normal spot, bellowing his normal cheer.
“I can look outside of the fence and I can see him talking to me, saying spin it and all that fun stuff," said Emrick.
Not only did Buckhorn take the title, Zoie was named game MVP.
Which brings us to Graduation night. An event, no doubt, Don would have loved to been at, just as much as any game.
"He would probably be in tears, and Dad doesn’t usually cry, but he would probably be in tears," she said.
For the father who never missed a pitch, she thinks he didn't miss Montgomery, and he certainly didn't sit out of Graduation either.
“He’s here and I know he’s here. He’s in the stands saying, Yep! Yep!" she said.
Zoie made good on one other promise to her father - playing college softball. She's committed to playing for Wallace State in the Fall.
Through it all, she says she knows her father will keep her company on the pitcher's mound.