For the past two years, Alabama Christian Academy pitcher Haley Pittman has been splitting time in the circle with Lacey Spear.
Spear’s departure – she graduated and is now pitching at Samford – leaves the Eagles with just one proven pitcher in 2019. And that’s just fine with Pittman.
“I’ve always wanted the ball,” she said. “Tough games, I want it. The game on the line, I want it. I want to be in the tough situations.”
Pittman, who is committed to Florida and was recently chosen as one of the pitchers in the Alabama All-Stars Sports Week, made her feelings clear to head coach Chris Goodman.
“I think she has really embraced it,” Goodman said. “She’s been begging for two years to get more starts and obviously I had Lacey Spear the last couple of years, who was a really good pitcher. I think she’s been really excited coming in here, knowing she is (the only featured pitcher). She’s heard all the stories of Lauren Webster. I think she’s really embraced it. And when I don’t give her the ball, it makes her mad.”
When the Eagles open play in the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s South Regional today at Gulf Shores Sportsplex, it will be Pittman – and only Pittman – in the circle for ACA. Already, the junior has etched her name atop the school record books with 1,221 strikeouts, becoming the first pitcher in school history to reach the 1,200-strikeout plateau.
“With the pitchers that have come through the place – with Ryndell Langford, Lauren Webster, Caitlin Perry – those are our one-two-three and for Pittman to jump above those three as a junior, that’s saying something,” Goodman said. “Because those are some pretty good pitchers.”
Pittman earned her 100th career victory in the Area 4 tournament and will carry a 101-24 record into the regionals. Only St. James’ Robyn Harmon (106 in 2004-08) and Perry (121 in 2011-15) have more among local high school softball pitchers in the AHSAA record books.
“It’s exciting,” said Pittman, who would much rather face a bases-loaded, no-out situation than a media interview. But while she tries to stay out of the limelight off the field, she is a fierce competitor on the field, where her improvement in the circle between her sophomore and junior seasons was matched by her performance at the plate, where she ranks second in batting average (.455), hits (55), and home runs (four) and leads the team in doubles (nine) and RBIs (38).
“I’ve been more disciplined, looking for the pitch in certain situations,” she said. “I need to hit in order for us to score runs.”
As the ace on the staff, she is one of the team leaders in well, breaking in her third catcher in as many years this season and taking charge – along with the team’s lone senior, second baseman Baylee Perkins – to help an inexperienced team this season with several holes to fill in the lineup.
“Most of us have been playing together outside of school ball, so we’re all pretty close,” Pittman said. “It always helps having a close team.”
In the circle, she is 27-6 this season with a 0.93 earned run average, recording 347 strikeouts while allowing just 81 hits and 48 walks. The left hander with the deceptive drop-down delivery is confident in her rise, changeup, curveball and screwball as the postseason approaches.
“I’m working on trying to get my curveball better and my screwball,” she said. “When they want to lay off the rise, to have something to come with.”
Goodman knew his star was ready for this moment, although he cautioned her during the offseason to work on developing strength and conditioning for the hot May afternoons she’ll face in the postseason.
“I hope she’s fresh,” he said. “We haven’t played as many games this year. We cut back on our schedule a little bit because I knew my ‘two’ and ‘three’ (pitchers) were a year away from being where they were going to be good. I think she’s fine. As a matter of fact, she’s fussed a little bit that we haven’t thrown her enough.”
From here on out, they’ll only be one Alabama Christian pitcher in the circle for the postseason. Goodman says that is all it takes to make a run deep into the state tournament.
“We did it with Caitlin Perry, we did it with Lauren Webster,” Goodman said. “Unfortunately for Perry, we didn’t get her enough offense and win any state championships for her, but we were right there for three years. With Webster, we were lucky enough to get a couple of state championships out of her.”
ACA CAREER STRIKEOUTS
1,221 – Haley Pittman (2015-present)
1,184 – Ryndell Langford (1996-2000)
1,137 – Caitlin Perry (2011-2015)
1,103 – Lauren Webster (2004-09)
674 – Paige Kennedy (2000-2004)
AHSAA SOUTH REGIONAL
Gulf Shores Sportsplex
Game 1 – Alabama Christian vs. W.S. Neal, 10:30 a.m.
Game 2 – Ashford vs. Clarke County, 10:30 a.m.
Game 3 – LAMP vs. UMS-Wright, 10:30 a.m.
Game 4 – Andalusia vs. Dale County, 10:30 a.m.
Game 5 – Loser Game 1 vs. loser Game 2, 3 p.m.
Game 6 – Loser Game 3 vs. loser Game 4, 3 p.m.
Game 7 – Winner Game 1 vs. winner Game 2, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8 – Winner Game 3 vs. winner Game 4, 4:30 p.m.
Game 9 – Winner Game 6 vs. loser Game 7, 7:30 p.m.
Game 10 – Winner Game 5 vs. loser Game 8, 7:30 p.m.
Game 11 – Winner Game 7 vs. winner Game 8, 9 a.m. (State tournament qualifier)
Game 12 – Winner Game 9 vs. winner Game 10, 10:30 a.m.
Game 13 – Winner Game 12 vs. loser Game 11, 3 p.m. (State tournament qualifier)