PHEBA — A week ago, Brooke Griffin was just another young pitcher looking to make her mark.
On Friday, something clicked and allowed Griffin to see what she could become. It’s not surprising that the Hebron Christian School freshman liked what she saw.
Now Griffin’s goal is to do it again to prove she belongs in the circle.
Griffin threw five hitless innings and had an inside-the-park home run in a 10-1 victory against Jackson Academy in the season opener for both teams. For Griffin’s accomplishment, she is The Dispatch’s Prep Player of the Week.
“I didn’t think about (how well I was doing),” Griffin said. “I was thinking about working my mechanics and throwing strikes so we could get out of the inning. I think I got a lot more confidence.”
On a young team — Subrina Oswalt is the only senior — with multiple pitchers, Hebron Christian coach Cass Tapley said Griffin was the most consistent throwing strikes to earn the start in the first game of the season.
Griffin also started game two Monday, a 13-0 loss to Winston Academy. She pitched the first four innings and gave up six runs, and came back into the game in the sixth inning in relief of Rebeka Joy Falkner. Griffin struck out six. Holly Hudson and Victoria Ferguson had the only hits for the Lady Eagles (1-1).
Griffin, a right-hander, is one of four freshman on the 20-player roster. Hebron Christian has only three upperclassmen, so Tapley, who is back coaching the program after a one-year absence, is confident the future is bright. Part of his approach has been a heavier practice schedule that has included a lot of attention to pitching. Griffin said the increased workload the pitchers shouldered in the preseason gave her the confidence to be able to take the circle and deliver.
Tapley didn’t expect Griffin, who had six strikeouts against Jackson Academy, to strike out as many this early. But he believes those numbers could increase as the season progresses and Griffin matures and builds her pitching arsenal.
“I am pleased,” Tapley said. “If she keeps doing what she is doing we will win some games.”
Griffin said the coaches have worked with her on her mechanics, which has been a challenge because there are a lot of things she has to remember to do the right way to be successful. She said she didn’t think about the mechanics last season when she pitched in every game. This season, she said she is learning how to build consistency in the circle and not
“I was surprised because I don’t really do that good (in the first game),” Griffin said. “I didn’t know I hadn’t allowed any hits. My friends encouraged me during the game to keep it up.”
Tapley also likes how Griffin has swung the bat in the first two games. Against Jackson Academy, Griffin had two hits, including an inside-the-park home run to center field. Griffin said she used her speed to get the home run.
Although Griffin didn’t have a hit Monday, Tapley said she swung the bat well and had several line drives. He hopes Griffin will improve as much at the plate as he feels she will in the circle.
“In the past few weeks she was our best pitcher,” Tapley said. “We don’t get fancy. We don’t call pitches because we don’t have any to call. By the end of the year we will.
“She should be a much better pitcher three weeks from now.”
Griffin, who also is a member of the school’s girls basketball and track and field team, has played softball since she was 6 or 7 years old. She played softball on a travel ball team out of Houston, but she doesn’t play travel ball anymore. That may change if Griffin, who already has developed a changeup since the start of the summer, has more games like she had in her season debut. Griffin said she considers pitching “fun” and enjoys the rewards she gets from her hard work in the circle.
“I used to not like it, but I started to like it this year,” Griffin said. “I am liking it more because we are practicing more and I have gotten better. I have been throwing more strikes than I used to, and my velocity has gotten better.”
Griffin didn’t imagine this kind of success would come so quickly. After winning only one game last season, Griffin believes she and the Lady Eagles can accomplish much more. She intends to do her part by showing she is more than just another pitcher.
“I want to get more no-hitters and to get a shutout, ” Griffin said. “I have a lot more confidence that I will be able to do that.
“I expect a lot more from myself. I think my teammates have a lot more confidence in me, and I wanted to (throw the no-hitter) for them.”
Hebron Christian will travel to Louisville today to play Winston Academy.
n In other softball action from Monday night, Oak Hill Academy lost to Winona Christian 10-0. On Saturday, Oak Hill Academy lost to Winona Christian 18-0 and to Indianola Academy 7-0.
n Manchester Academy 11, Immanuel Christian 0: At Steens, Courtney Hall and LucyAnne Smith had the only shots on goal for the Lady Rams in their season opener.
“We just came out of camp this past week and I think our girls were just exhausted and not mentally ready for the game,” Immanuel Christian coach Theresa Bell said.
Immanuel will play host to Bayou Academy at 4 p.m. Monday in a rescheduled game.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.