Every opponent brings something different, but in the last six games for Roland-Story, there’s been one thing in common between the six teams the Norsemen faced.
“It’s the most slow pitching I’ve seen at varsity level, consecutively,” Roland-Story softball coach Amber Doyle said.
Against slower pitchers, the Norsemen struggled the past two games, totaling just four runs in two losses. It was an area requiring extra work. So, at Tuesday’s practice, Roland-Story focused on how to attack slower pitching. Against Gilbert on Wednesday, the practice paid off.
Roland-Story (5-5) scored five times in the fifth inning to seal a 12-1 win in five innings.
“I think we’re doing a good job now of staying balanced and driving, and taking bad pitches,” Doyle said. “I was happy to see them swinging at the right pitches and taking walks instead of them being over-aggressive and trying to get hits.”
Hitting slow pitching isn’t exactly easy, but the Norsemen have adjusted over these last six games.
“The key is just to focus on weight back and driving,” said pitcher Sydney Mathis, who went 1-for-3 at the plate. “You can’t get ahead of it; you won’t do much with it.
“It’s easy to want to swing at everything when it’s slow and coming and coming at you, but you still need to pick your pitch.”
Roland-Story junior Hailey Louw led the team with four RBIs. One thing that impressed Doyle was how spread out the Norsemen’s offense was against Gilbert (1-9). Six of the nine spots in the order produced at least one RBI.
“Runs came from all parts of the order,” Doyle said.
Doyle was also very complimentary of Mathis, the Norsemen’s starting pitcher. The junior, who got the win, has been pitching on the varsity since she was in eighth grade. Back then, Mathis said it was wild, being so young and pitching on a varsity stage before she even entered high school.
“It was an emotional roller coaster, wondering which games I was going to throw,” Mathis said. “The games that I was really I was really nervous. Freshman year, I got better and now it’s junior year, so now I’m just calm during every at bat.”
Mathis showed that calm demeanor against the very first batter. Gilbert freshman Katie Gescheidler battled against Mathis, fighting off pitch after pitch before inducing a 12-pitch walk.
Gescheidler eventually made it to third, in scoring position for possibly the game’s first run. But Mathis remained calm and got out of the inning.
Doyle told Mathis to find rhythm with her pitching, but aside from that, no other pep talk was needed.
“She’s got a pretty good handle on, if something’s going off the rails, what she needs to do to fix it,” Doyle said of Mathis. “She doesn’t need a ton from me.”
Mathis added: “I think (Doyle) knows me as a pitcher. She knows it’s up to me, how I’m feeling and how I’m doing, because I can control my own emotions.
Mathis continued to dominate the Gilbert lineup throughout the game. The Roland-Story offense did its part, too, using only three innings to total their 12 runs.
Gilbert added a run in the bottom of the fifth, but couldn’t prevent the early ending.
Now, 10 games into the season, Roland-Story has an even record. Doyle hopes the team keeps improving, just like it did against slower pitching. That will continue Friday at South Hamilton.
“We’ve know we’re a solid team,” Doyle said. “This is the most solid team I’ve had as far as I’ve got eight upperclassmen on the roster.
“They want to be competitive. They want to win ball games. I think if they keep clicking and getting a little better and a little better, we’ll see when we come up against those tough teams in the conference that we maybe we didn’t do as well against the first go around.”