BELLEVILLE Southwestern Illinois College softball coach Kathy Bernal said recently that she can count on one hand the number of lefthanded pitchers who have worn a Blue Storm uniform in the past 21 years.
Bernal might soon be using the other hand for counting after former Civic Memorial hurler TJ Smith announced she will be attending SWIC beginning in August.
“There just aren’t a lot of lefthanded pitchers out there and most of the ones there are go on to four-year schools out of high school,’’ Bernal said. “I couldn’t give you an exact number how many we’ve have had over the past 21 years, but there aren’t many.
“TJ doesn’t throw exceptionally hard. She relies more on off-speed pitches and location. But just having a lefthander in our rotation is a good thing because it gives opposing hitters and teams a different look.’’
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Smith is joined by recent Red Bud High School graduate pitcher Taylor Fithian and six other former metro-east players who have signed letters-of-intent to join the SWIC softball program for the upcoming 2015-16 season.
The Blue Storm finished a subpar 8-23 this Spring during a season which was plagued by inconsistency. The Blue Storm had its moments, playing both traditional national powers Lakeland College and Wabash Valley College close on separate occasions. But when SWIC needed a big hit or a big play to be made, it came up short.
“We were right there against both of those teams in a game in a doubleheader. But it was like on days when we got good pitching, the bats were silent and when we hit the ball hard and got some runs, either the defense or our pitching let us down.’’
“It was like that all year. We just couldn’t put anything together and sustain it.’’
Fithian and Smith will join a SWIC staff brings back two starters. Bernal added that standout shortstop Terri Dearth will also see time on the mound next year. Fithian was 9-5 with a 1.95 ERA at Red Bud this past year.
“Taylor has a little speed with her pitching but again she’s one who relies more on throwing strikes and changing speeds,’’ Bernal said. “If we can all stay healthy, I like what we have with our pitching coming back next year.’’
Also added to the BLue Storm roster was Fithian’s catcher at Red Bud — Jordan Knight. An excellent backstop, Knight batted .379 a year ago for the Musketeers.
Two more possible catchers entering the Blue Storm program later this summer will be Kelsey Deaton of Civic Memorial and Juanda Eisemann of Belleville West. Eeisemann can also be used in the outfield and could see time at designated hitter after batting .300 with three home runs and 12 RBI’s for the Maroons this Spring.
“You know me. I like to have two or three catchers. One of the reasons is with all the doubleheaders we play, its a lot of wear and tear if you have just one catcher. The one season we had both of our catchers go down with injuries early and we needed to move some kids around.
“One of things I look for when I recruit are players who can play multiple positions. For one, it gives the girls a chance at more playing time if they can move around and two, it gives us some options as well is someone goes down or is in a slump.’’
Former Roxana standout Cindy Scroggins leads a list of three infielders recruited by Bernal. One of the top offensive threats for the Shells, Scroggins batted .348 with 37 RBI’s this past year. Other incoming freshman infielders include Karissa Woody of Mulberry Grove and Taylor Oxford of Bunker Hill.
Speedy Tyra Jackson, a graduate of Belleville East, will add depth to the Blue Storm outfield.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.