In baseball and softball, it always helps to have athletes that coaches can rely on to make a difference.
This week’s Athletes of the Week are Innovation’s Lianna Giles and Southington’s Jeremy Mercier. Both players are off to tremendous individual starts and have had a major impact in their team’s success in the beginning of the season.
The Innovation softball team is off to the best start of any local team. Not only has the team lost just one game, but it has also qualified for the postseason tournament for the first time in school history.
The Ravens are scoring at an alarming rate, as they have scored double figure runs in all but one game this season, but that does not overshadow the accomplishments of the starting pitcher Giles.
The junior joined the team as a freshman and was raw to say the least. She averaged 12 walks per game in her first season at the school, but has gotten that down to three per game just two short years later. So far this season, Giles has thrown 61 innings and has a 4.01 ERA along with 45 strikeouts, which is a school record, as is her nine wins as a pitcher.
“Lianna is not an overpowering pitcher but she has learned to pitch to spots, change speeds and move the ball with her wrist, not her arm which has been wonderful for her,” head coach Michael Jessie said.
While Giles has been a standout in the circle, she has also done plenty to help with Innovation’s potent offense. At the dish she is hitting .556 with 20 hits, 18 walks, 10 stolen bases and a .698 on-base percentage as the leadoff hitter and table setter for the Ravens.
“She is a competitor, leader and a great kid,” Jessie said. “I keep trying to get her to pitch with a smile because when she is smiling and having fun she has been unhittable.”
The Southington baseball team started the season 3-2 but the offense wasn’t jelling early in the year. The team was averaging four runs per game but it was clear that with the talent in the lineup the team had more runs in it than that.
In the three following games, all wins, the Blue Knights scored 10, 21 and nine runs and now it is clear that the offense has hit its stride making facing this lineup a scary proposition for opposing offenses.
The early struggles coincided with a few starters slumping at the plate and that includes first basemen Mercier. The junior was in a bit of a funk the first few games but broke out in a big way against Berlin last Monday when he had two hits and a team-high four RBI.
“I was in a little bit of a slump so my mindset all day was just ‘get out of it’,” Mercier said. “The guys in front of me got on and into scoring position so I tried to do my best to get them in and it worked out.”
Even with the early struggles Mercier was aware that baseball is one of those games where things can change quickly. Because of that, his confidence never wavered and he kept the same mindset he usually has.
“I basically just go up to the plate thinking that I’m getting on base every time,” Mercier said. “That’s the way I always try to think no matter what and that’s that I am going to get a hit this time.”
Mercier is actually the eighth-place hitter in Southington’s lineup so the group is a deep one and that is a huge part of what makes the team so difficult to deal with. Everybody, from one through nine, could beat you on any given day or at any given moment. It was Mercier’s time, among others, in the 21-run outburst against Berlin and the team hopes to get that same type of production from the eight hole.
“Jeremy was in a bit of a slump coming into [last week],” head coach Charles Lembo said. “He is one of the few juniors on this team that is in the starting lineup and he does a good job for us. He had opportunities with guys on base [against Berlin] and he took advantage of all of those opportunities to break out of it and hopefully he keeps it going.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5