August 11, 2009 9:15:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- A year ago, Lyndsey Haynes was trying to find her groove.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee forced her to wear a brace that affected her delivery.
The injury also left the right-handed pitcher on the Starkville Academy fastpitch softball team wondering whether she would regain her form.
But last weekend Haynes showed she has found her groove again.
Haynes earned four victories in the circle Saturday to help the Lady Volunteers win the Starkville Invitational Tournament at the Mississippi State intramural fields.
Haynes pitched Starkville Academy (8-1) past Winston Academy, Central Academy, and Pillow Academy twice to help her team win its first tournament title since 2004.
For her efforts, Haynes is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
Haynes'' effort was even more impressive considering she pitched against Oak Hill Academy on Monday, Central Academy on Tuesday, at Kemper Academy on Thursday, and at Leake Academy on Friday.
Leake Academy handed Starkville Academy its only loss (11-2) this season (not including the Lady Volunteers'' game Monday at Washington).
Starkville Academy coach Randy Haynes, who is Lyndsey''s father, knew his daughter would have to shoulder the load in the circle because the team has limited pitching experience. He said she followed the game plan to throw strikes and to allow her defense to make the plays, which helped her overcome blisters on her right hand.
"If we got into a five- or a six-game situation she was going to be doomed," Haynes said. "She did what I told her to do. She probably gave up more hits than she would just throwing down the middle."
Haynes said Lyndsey (8-1) faced 107 batters in 22 innings. She walked only seven, struck out 26, and allowed 27 hits in the four games in the tournament.
"I think she is back to 100 percent," Haynes said. "She is able to stride out and get that shock absorber on that left knee."
Lyndsey Haynes started to prepare for her senior season in the spring. She said conditioning work with coaches Kyle Morgan and Jessica Dickins and plenty of running, jumping rope, and jumping boxes has improved her stamina. She said the work has helped her feel comfortable again in the circle.
"It has been a complete change in my confidence," Haynes said. "Physically I am back to how I was as a sophomore. Mentally as a pitcher I have improved a lot. (Catcher) Bailey (Wofford) has helped a lot. I can''t pitch with anyone else catching me, not to my full ability. We have been together for three years. I call half of the game and she calls the other half. Everything we do is visual."
Haynes said running with the brace on her left leg felt "crazy" last season. She said she had to wear a wrap under the brace because the rubbing on her leg created blisters.
She said the brace also forced her to limit how far she strided toward home plate in her delivery. As a result, she said she lost about 5 mph on her fastball.
This season, she said her leg is fine and she has a full stride, which has given her a new attitude.
"That helps me mentally because I can trust my arm and in my arm speed to get it through there," Haynes said. "Then all I have to worry about is focusing on where my pitches are going to go. By the second and third game I was hitting all of my spots. By the third game (Saturday) it was perfect. If I could pitch like that it would be good."
Haynes said her fingers started to get raw after Starkville Academy rallied to beat Central Academy in its second game Saturday. Fortunately, she used some super glue on her fingers to help create calluses.
Haynes doesn''t recommend pitchers use super glue on their fingers, but she said it helped speed up the process and helped her stay in the circle.
"I just throw harder and eventually my fingers get so raw they get numb," Haynes said of how she combats blisters. "After the first two games it just gets numb. It is the same with my shoulder. You don''t really feel the pain until after the game."
Haynes said her arm wasn''t hurting in the third game, but she knew by the fourth game she didn''t want to pitch a fifth game.
Starkville Academy helped Haynes by defeating Pillow Academy in extra innings to take the title.
Haynes said the victory was another step forward in what has been a fast start to the season.
"Our team has definitely surprised me because we are so young," Haynes said. "I have always played with older girls, and I have played varsity since I was in seventh grade. ... Our whole infield is young, except for Renee (Tatum) playing second, but I have confidence in them now. It helps me a lot to have confidence in my infield and in my outfield."
Haynes also said the tournament title should help boost the team''s mind-set as it tries to get back to the playoffs and make this season a memorable one.
"Winning this tournament shows us we can do a tournament and I can pitch all of these games and still do fine," Haynes said. "Winning the tournament, I couldn''t believe it. I was proud."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.