PITTSFIELD -- The members of the Berkshire Force pitching staff understand two things as they prepare for this week's Babe Ruth 16 and Under Softball World Series.
One is they'll have to use all of their pitches in order to help their team win. The other thing -- don't shake off pitching coach Serena Stimpson.
Force pitcher Julia Murphy said she did it once at St. Joseph. Stimpson is an assistant coach for the Crusaders' softball team and Murphy pitched every inning for St. Joe in the spring -- with Stimpson calling the pitches.
"I'll never do that again," Murphy said with a smile before a recent practice. "It was in a high school game. I think it was 0-2 and she called a fastball which took me by surprise.
"When I got back in the dugout, I heard it."
That was then. Now?
"We've developed a good trust," Murphy said.
Murphy, Emily Koldys and Ashley Keegan make up the Force's pitching staff and the work Stimpson has done will help head coach Jim Clary make decisions during the tournament.
The Force pitchers will take their final exams when the rest of the World Series field arrives to begin play Wednesday at the Doyle Complex.
"With all the tournaments we've gone to and all the practices we've had, [the summer] has gone by pretty quickly," Keegan said.
On last year's run to the World Series, Force head coach Jim Clary used the one-two punch of Cat Record and Carly Decker.
"Carly and Julia are about on the same level. They both throw ‘junk,' " said Stimpson, ‘junk' being a positive term in this case. "They're all hard workers. Cat had speed while Ashley and Emily have speed."
Keegan and Murphy throw several pitches while Koldys just learned to throw a screwball.
"That's where Julia comes in. Julia has spins no one can top," the pitching coach said. "She probably throws 55 miles an hour, but it's all spins.
"Emily and Ashley throw harder but they don't have as much ‘junk.' "
"[The screwball] has become my go-to pitch," Murphy said. "I've noticed that a lot of hitters really struggle when the ball is in on their hands. It's good for popups or strikeouts."
The three pitchers were high school rivals. Keegan pitched for Taconic, Koldys for Pittsfield and Murphy for St. Joe. Now they are teammates and work for each other.
It is often said that hitting is contagious. If two or three players start hitting the ball really well, then the rest of the batting order can get into the same groove and runs follow.
It is also said that good pitching can be contagious.
"Usually, if one of us has a good game, we try to feed off one another and take their words of advice to go into the next game," Keegan said.
"It's the same," said Koldys, referring to pitching and hitting, "because you want to keep doing good and you don't want to lose the mojo."
When the World Series starts, there will be pitchers of all skill levels. Some will bring the heat and others will throw offspeed pitches, or as Stimpson likes to say, "junk." The three Force pitchers say they just want to do their jobs in their own way.
"Honestly, I'm kind of in my own little bubble during a game and before the game," said Murphy. "I don't really care what the other team is doing.
"Pitching-wise, I'll look at them, but I just have to control myself."
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