Three times tough:
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 17, 2002
A trio of Charles Henderson pitchers have the Lady Trojans aiming for state
By KEVIN PEARCEY
Junior Rachel Spurlin doesn’t look like Charles Henderson’s ace pitcher.
She’s quite. Unassuming. A bit "timid" when she talks according to head coach Steve Haug.
That may be what suckers the opposition in.
Spurlin’s work on the mound so far this season has resulted in an eye-popping Earned Run Average of 0.91. For those who keep count, that’s nine pennies short of a dollar, certainly not much to live by in the real world or on the softball diamond.
And although CHHS pitching coach Jerry Goodson teaches Spurlin she doesn’t have to strike out everybody she faces, the junior redhead’s good at that as well. She’s sat down 73 batters over an average of 84.1 innings pitched, both tops among CHHS pitchers, and currently holds an 11-3 overall pitching record.
"Rachel’s experience helps her," says Haug. "Being a junior, she’s a little older and a little calmer. She’s one of those girls that doesn’t ever seem to get rattled."
Spurlin says she didn’t expect for her numbers to be as good as they are at this point in the season.
"I didn’t think it would be like this."
Then she speaks with the tone of a true team player, a quiet calm leader:
"I just think we can do good if we play like we’re capable of playing."
Haug agrees and said he received "outstanding" pitching performances, not only from Spurlin, but also from sophomore Brittany Carlisle during last weekend’s Spring Fling Tournament in Dothan. Spurlin won three games, including the championship contest against Opelika on Saturday, while Carlisle split a pair, holding Enterprise scoreless in the Lady Trojans’ 2-0 semifinal victory.
"They just turned it on," says Haug about the pair. "And that’s one of the things we had talked about. About somebody stepping up, because this was tournament time and we’re getting close to the end of the season. We have to stop letting things get us down and come back and do it."
And they did it well.
After losing two games in pool play, Spurlin and Carlisle combined to give up just one run in 17 straight innings of play for the final three games of the tournament. And these efforts were against two teams, (Enterprise and Opelika), which have a history of hitting the ball well, but the Lady Trojans’ duo held both to only two hits each.
"Coach Goodson calls all of the pitches and normally I just throw fastballs and change-ups," says Carlisle. "My change-up just looked really good the other day (against Enterprise)."
Spurlin believes that winning the Spring Fling will help the team’s confidence with sectionals set to start in early May.
She also continues to try and improve.
"I don’t really have a best pitch that I throw," she says. "It’s usually change-ups and fastballs, but I’ve started working on my rise ball."
"That’s the kind of pitching that we usually have," says Haug about the tournament experience. "Rachel was on fire in the last game and Brittany did just as good against Enterprise. It was fun to watch. Nerve-wracking, but fun."
Carlisle has a 5-6 record overall, but her ERA is 1.89. Haug says his sophomore pitcher has just "had some bad breaks" when it comes to the wins and losses.
"Brittany’s come a long way," he says. "She’s been in some games we haven’t played well in."
Carlisle says the extra year of experience has helped, not only her, but Spurlin and freshman Allie Park also.
"Our maturity level has definitely got better," she says.
Park, playing in her first full-year of varsity softball, is sporting some impressive numbers as well. The youngest pitcher of the three, she picked up her seventh win of the season with a six-inning, 10-0 shutout of area foe Eufaula on Tuesday night. The CHHS offense backed her up, as Chelsea Howard went 1-for-3, driving in three runs, and Janie Boswell had two RBIs off one hit. The Lady Trojans improved to 23-12.
For Park, who still pitches for the CHHS junior varsity team occasionally, this has been a year of learning.
"It’s kind of different, because last year I was the oldest one and the starting pitcher," she says. "This year I’m not. But I get a lot of experience. They’re (the coaches) real fair about giving me a lot of time (pitching) and Rachel and Brittany’s doing really good."
And being the youngest pitcher, she can also afford to boast a little.
"I’ve got an awesome change-up," she says and then laughs. "But it’s day-to-day. Sometimes it’s on and sometimes it’s not."
Haug says he and Goodson keep and eye on all three pitchers, less they end up overworked or – in worse case – injured. Pitching a softball underhanded is a natural motion, but sometimes, says Haug, letting one girl throw longer then she needs too can cause injury.
"We keep a pitch count and we watch them," Haug says. "We also make sure they ice their arms after a game. One of the most important things we can do is let them throw enough before a game to get loose and get more blood back to the muscles in the arm."
Although as a pitching unit, the three bring an equal amount of talent to mound, what Haug likes about all three players is their versatility.
"All of their ERA’s are great, but they’re contributing elsewhere," he says. "That’s the great thing about this team; we only have 12 players, but they can all play the other positions."
Spurlin can attest to that.
She also plays first base and has a batting average of .309, good enough for third on a team of solid hitters.