On the mound, TJC softball pitcher Halie Vance has a lot to think about.
The sophomore from Chapel Hill must think about the pitch she wants to throw, the placement of the pitch, the tendencies of the hitter, the position of the players on the field, whether a runner is threatening to steal a base, the instruction of the coach and the score.
She knows that the success of the pitch that is about to fly from her hand can be the difference between winning and losing.
“The pitcher has a very complicated job,” said Assistant Coach Caitlin Bollier, who works with the six players who share pitching duties on the team.“They (pitchers) have to pay attention to the batter and who’s on what base. If the opposing player tries to steal base while the pitcher is getting ready to throw, the pitcher has to be ready to stop them.”
Vance said that because pitchers are not in every game, some people assume that they do not work as hard as other position players.
“Believe it or not, the pitcher has to practice just as much as everyone else does,” said Vance.
Khandi Breaux, a freshman pitcher, said she works hard to master her fast ball.
“I can’t tell you the number of hours I’ve spent just practicing how fast I pitch,” said Breaux, the former 1st All-District player at Orangefield High School. “I think it’s pretty important because, if you don’t throw a great pitch, obviously it gives the batter a better chance at hitting.”
Ashlin Roach knows all too well how hard pitchers practice and play. As one of the catchers on the team, Roach must work in tandem with whoever is on the mound.
The freshman from Hughes Springs said that she is thankful that she is able to bond with all of the pitchers.
“I have to prepare to catch whatever throw comes my way if the batters doesn’t hit,” said Roach. “Sometimes, it’s kind of scary. A catcher has to pay attention to what the pitcher is doing. Heck, everyone on the team needs to pay attention.”
Pitching injuries are also a concern. Injuries in the elbow, femur, shoulders and wrists are very common. Pitchers must learn how to avoid them.
“I think the best way to avoid an injury is to warm up the arm before a practice or game,” said Bollier. “If the pitcher doesn’t warm up right or even at all, it will affect the way they throw and will add stress to their wrists and shoulders.”
Bollier said that sometimes as a season progresses, a pitcher will say that their forearms or shoulders are getting tighter which can be a warning sign. If there is tightness in the forearm, the elbow will take on more stress of the pitcher’s throw.
Bollier said she reminds her pitchers to have a post-pitching recovery routine so the tightened muscles can relax.
Head Coach Nicole Dickson said that keeping the pitchers injury-free is one of her priorities.
“It’s vital that the pitcher has a proper warm-up routine so that all the muscles that support the elbow and shoulders are fully warmed up,” said Dickson.