Alie Tarrant, Mahomet-Seymour
The senior right-hander is poised to pitch Division I softball at Butler.
For now, she’s solidifying herself one more time in the pitcher’s circle for the Bulldogs.
With an 8-3 record and a 1.06 earned run average, Tarrant has struck out 107 and walked 32 in 66 1/3 innings this spring for Mark Jones’ team.
“She’s worked really hard on her pitching and getting her pitches to move and stay in more command of her pitches,” said Jones, the Bulldogs’ coach. “When she’s pitching and she’s on, she knows what’s working. When she’s struggling, she knows she has to make a change to do what her pitches want to do.”
The four-year varsity contributor is her toughest critic, Jones said.
But he wouldn’t pencil anyone else in to start when it comes to a pressure-packed situation.
“It takes a load off your mind,” Jones said. “It makes you very relaxed because you know that if you have a big game, you can put the ball in her hands and she can get it taken care of.”
Erin Walker, Tuscola
The workhorse of last year’s team that placed fourth in Class 1A, Walker is piling up the strikeouts at an even higher rate this year.
After finishing 22-5 and compiling 139 strikeouts in 183 innings last spring for the Warriors, the junior has already struck out 114 in 102 innings so far this season.
“She spent a lot of time in the weightroom and gained a little speed and also worked on developing her curveball,” Tuscola coach Lenny Sementi said. “She knew coming into this year that since we lost so many kids that she had to get her strikeout count up. Her best pitch right now is probably her curveball. It didn’t break as much last year as it is now.”
Getting a chance to practice outside with her new infield has not happened much because of the tumultuous weather this spring. That hasn’t rattled Sementi’s ace, though.
“Erin’s personality doesn’t change much,” Sementi said. “We start four girls in the infield that coming into the season didn’t even have their drivers license. Three of them still don’t. I think she knew it would be like that, but we always feel really good when Erin is out there.”
Samantha Fleming, St. Joseph-Ogden
Replacing a pitcher like Elizabeth Everingham isn’t for the weak-hearted. Everingham, now at St. Louis, set an area single-season record for wins last season with a 32-1 record.
Fleming, however, is up for the challenge.
“It’s a tough act to follow,” SJ-O coach Randy Wolken said, “but she’s working awfully hard to fill those shoes.”
The senior who has a 7-1 record and a 1.59 ERA in 44 innings pitched won’t overwhelm opponents with her strikeout totals (23).
She will see an increased workload with fellow pitcher Lexie Boaz out for at least two weeks with a shoulder injury.
“She did a lot of pitching workouts over the winter,” Wolken said of Fleming. “We increased her scheudle so she could take on more. She’s a pretty strong girl.”
Fleming will play at Lake Land College along with her twin sister Mickaela, but for now, the Spartan standout is concerned with making sure SJ-O can go on another deep postseason run like last year’s third-place finish in Class 2A.
“Her curveball is a good pitch because she can use it against righties and lefties, and she is able to get it on two planes where it can drop,” Wolken said. “We try to mix it up a lot. She’s got a lot of different pitches we can use.”
McKenzie Krutsinger, Unity
The right-hander burst onto the scene last spring in her freshman season.
She’s continuing to post stellar numbers during her sophomore campaign.
The right-hander for the Rockets is one coach Kelley Wedel depends on not just for her pitching prowess, but her pitching presence.
“When McKenzie is on the mound, her teammates feed off of her energy,” Wedel said. “When she works hard, they work hard. They all have this secret trust in themselves that they do not have to verbalize but just know that they will be there. It’s almost like a sixth sense.”
Krutsinger has put together an 8-4 record and a 1.95 ERA while striking out 90 and walking only 14 in 78 1/3 innings pitched.
“Her best pitch would have to be the drop curve,” Wedel said. “She has great movement with this pitch and has learned to master it even more over the past month and a half. She realizes that when she can keep people off balance it only opens doors for opportunities to throw something she wants.”
Lizzy Smith, Villa Grove
Give the senior the ball and chances are she’ll come out with a win.
Which is what has happened so far this season for the Blue Devils, who are 7-0 on the season.
Smith has all those wins and a 0.62 ERA to boot. She also has 112 strikeouts in only 45 innings pitched, which averages out to 2.5 strikeouts per inning. If she keeps those numbers up and the weather doesn’t interfere, last year’s school-record 248 strikeouts Smith set could fall.
“The biggest thing with her is her velocity,” Villa Grove coach Phil Durland said of her ace, who tops out in the mid-60s. “She’s been able to spot the ball a little bit better this year. She’s cut down the walks to one or two a game compared to last year where it might have been six or eight a game.”
She’s only given up 20 hits this season, and on the flip side, Smith is hitting .613 with four home runs and 13 RBI. Pretty much how Smith goes is how Villa Grove goes.
“She always has had natural ability,” Durland said. “I started working with her when she was in fourth grade. Her dad and I played softball together, so she’d come in on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. She’s just gotten better each year.”