Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A-Sun Packs “Punch Out” Power
The Atlantic Sun Conference ranks as the only conference in the nation with two players in the national Top 10 in total strikeouts in both baseball and softball.
FGCU’s Chris Sale entered action Tuesday leading the nation in strikeouts with 114 but not to be outdone, Lipscomb’s Josh Smith ranks third with 110. On the softball side, USC Upstate’s Morgan Childers entered Tuesday with the third most punch-outs in the nation, while Mercer’s Jenni Holtz ranks seventh.
“Strikeouts are fun,” according to Childers, whose 405 strikeouts rank as the second-best single season total in A-Sun history. “When you can strikeout one of the best hitters on the opposing team, it is really fun and that is what it is all about.”
Despite the huge number of punch outs for A-Sun hurlers, all four agree it is not something they usually strive to accomplish.
“It just happen in the flow of the game,” Sale, NCAA Baseball’s national strikeout leader, said. “When you have your pitches working it is part of the game. However I am still a big fan of the bad swing. That is when you know you really have it working.”
Sale holds the national strikeout lead but Smith remains right on his heels, ranking third in the nation and only four behind the junior from FGCU.
“When it comes to strikeouts you really have to see how the game goes,” Smith said. “I just want to do what I can to help the team win.”
While some baseball pitchers tend to have an “out pitch” the softball player say that is not something they on which they rely.
“There really isn’t a pitch I like to go with when I have two strikes on someone,” Childers said. “I like to use all four of my pitches.”
“It really depends on the batter,” Holtz said. “But when you strike out the other team’s best hitter it can really give you team a boost of energy.”
Smith thinks things can be a little bit different in baseball.
“When I have someone two strikes I tend to go to my curve.” Smith said. “I have been working this year to mix in more of my fastball and I am starting to trust it more and more.”
Clearly Smith’s trust in more of his pitches has paid off. The senior ranks seventh in A-Sun history in career strikeouts with 336.
“It really depends on the day and the lineup I’m facing,” Sale said. “When I faced Clemson, I really had my slider working with so many lefties in the lineup. My favorite pitch to strike people remains the hard inside fastball.”
Even players like these still find joy in sitting another player down. Sometimes they even surprise themselves.
Holtz got the chance to face softball's national leader in batting average, Jen Yee from Georgia Tech, earlier in the season. Holtz struck her out and held her to one of her worst hitting nights of the season. In case you were wondering Yee has only been struck out four times this season and only 34 times in her four-year career.
Childers, Sale and Smith have faced challenges of their own.
“When I faced Lipscomb I felt lucky to strike any of them out,” Childers said. “They are such a great team of hitters, anyone of them can burn you.”
“ETSU’s Paul Hoilman is one of the best hitters I have ever faced,” Smith said. “He is very dangerous.”
“I would not want to face anyone in our (FGCU’s) lineup,” Sale said. “I think (Steven) Wickens and (Mikel) Alverez could be the toughest shortstop and second baseman to strikeout in the nation and a player like (Zach) Maxfield can take you deep at anytime.”