April 17, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
MABEN -- Aaron Herrington isn''t the hardest thrower in the state of Mississippi.
But the junior right-hander has learned to make up for what she doesn''t have by enticing hitters to swing at her pitches.
Whether it''s a dropball or a riseball or a pitch on the inside or the outside corner, Herrington will change speeds and locations to keep opponents off balance.
Her ability to keep hitters guessing allows her to be just as dominating as a harder throwing pitcher without popping her catcher''s mitt.
Herrington showed Thursday night just how effective she can be, pitching a complete-game three-hitter to lead the Stringer High School fast-pitch softball team to a 2-1 victory against East Webster in game one of their best-of-three Class 1A third-round playoff series.
"I never throw down the middle, unless it is 3-2," Herrington said. "If it is 3-2 I have to throw a strike. Other than that, I hit my spots, and this year I haven''t missed my spots very much."
Game two will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Stringer. Three-time defending Class 1A state champion East Webster (22-7) will have to win that game to force game three, which would be played after game two.
Jessica Flemings, Iyeshia Thomas, and Chloe Robinson had the only hits for the Lady Wolverines, who struck out only two times but grounded back to Herrington six times and had several easy infield popouts.
"They had pressure on us the whole night and we didn''t put much pressure on them," East Webster coach Bill Brand said. "You can''t take anything away from her, she had a great performance. We have a good offensive ballclub and she held us to one run."
Herrington, who has pitched at the varsity level for the Lady Devils since she was in seventh grade, has a history with the Lady Wolverines. She was in the circle in 2006 when Stringer beat East Webster in game one of their best-of-three series. She also was the pitcher who suffered back-to-back losses in the next two games.
East Webster then went on to win the first of three state titles in a row.
This season, Herrington and Stringer (19-2) have taken another step to building a tradition like East Webster''s. The program, which was 4-19 in Herrington''s seventh-grade season, won its second division title in a row this season and is one step away from clinching another playoff series.
Stringer coach David Mosley said Herrington has been an integral part of his program''s maturation.
"She changes speeds, she works the corners, and she does a super job of moving the ball around or they would hit her real good," Mosley said. "You don''t have to be the hardest thrower. Moving the ball around is more important."
Herrington has worked through two surgeries to her right knee. She started out throwing in the mid-40s when she was in seventh grade. She quickly discovered the ball often was hit back at her much faster than she threw it in.
As a result, she learned she needed to hit her spots and to change speeds to have a chance. Even though she only used her trusty changeup a handful of times Thursday night, Herrington has enough movement and plenty of control to get the job done.
"I was thinking East Webster was a better team with better hitters and that they might be able to jump on (her changeup), so I thought I might not to try my fastball," Herrington said. "My fastball was working good tonight, so I didn''t worry about the changeup to much."
East Webster starting pitcher Jessica Halterman was nearly as good as Herrington. The senior right-hander struck out eight and allowed seven hits (two in the infield and one on a bloop single). But a hit batter, flyout, and a throwing error in the first inning helped Ashley Valentine score after a leadoff single to give Stringer a 1-0 lead.
A groundout by Thomas scored Jordan Sisk, who walked, and helped East Webster tie the game in the bottom half of the inning.
Valentine singled off the glove of third baseman Swayze Hollenhead with one out in the fifth. Cambi McQueen''s double to left-center field scored Valentine with what proved to be the winning run.
"We had the pitching machine set up at 60 or 61 mph all week long," Mosley said. "We have been planning on hitting the fastball. We have been hitting 61 and 62 mph all year. We have seen fast pitching all year, and that helped us get ready for (Herrington)."
East Webster erased another run at the plate on the back end of a double play later in the fifth, but it couldn''t muster enough offense.
Brand said the Lady Wolverines didn''t really do anything to earn the run they scored in the first. He said the program has been in this situation before -- most recently last year after losing game one at home to Bogue Chitto. He said the key will be to have a short memory and to wake the bats up in time for Saturday.
"It is not rocket science," Brand said. "We will either hit the ball and make plays and advance, or we will go down there and there is a 50-50 chance we will lose a 2-1 ballgame like we did today."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.