DARKE COUNTY — The adage that pitchers are ahead of batters early in the season was on display as Darke County baseball and softball teams began the season on Monday.
Some Darke County pitchers were dominant in their season openers, including Greenville baseball player Austin Baumgardner and Greenville softball player Ally Russell, who have been named The Daily Advocate’s first athletes of the week of the 2014 spring sports season.
Russell picked up right where she left off in 2013 with a strong start against Hamilton Badin on Monday in a 2-0 Lady Wave win.
The Lady Wave junior allowed just one hit while striking out 17 in the shutout victory.
“She is coming off a all-Ohio and all-American season, and it’s scary to say, but she is 10 percent better than last season,” Greenville softball coach Jerrod Newland said.
Last year as a sophomore Russell had a 1.05 ERA in 32 games, which was third best in the Greater Western Ohio Conference among pitchers who pitched at least 10 innings. She had a 25-6 record and one save that season. She accumulated 200 strikeouts in 186.2 innings and pitched 12 shutouts.
“Ally is great student athlete, 4.0 GPA and great teammate,” Newland said. “She works on her game year round and is always trying to get better.”
Greenville is a goal-oriented program, Newland said, and set its usual lofty team goal of reaching the state final four in Akron. As the Lady Wave’s ace pitcher, Russell will be key to the team’s quest to reach that goal.
“Ally has worked hard on her offense and will explode here the next two seasons,” Newland said. “Can’t wait to see the results. Ally will make everyone around her better, and that’s the ultimate quality of high level players.”
Baumgardner also got Greenville off to a fast start as he excelled on the mound against Marion Local on Monday in Maria Stein.
The Greenville senior threw a complete game against the Flyers with five strikeouts and no walks in the 5-1 Green Wave victory. The lone run he surrendered in the victory was unearned.
“He did a great job keeping them off balance with his change up and was able to locate his fastball and cutter really well,” Greenville coach Eric Blumenstock said. “We have a busy week scheduled with seven games in six days, and it really helped that he was able to keep his pitch count low and give us seven outstanding innings.”
As a junior Baumgardner led Greenville by pitching 46 innings and recorded a 5-2 record with one save. He had 44 strikeouts, a 1.65 WHIP and a 3.35 ERA.
“Austin has put in a great deal of work in the offseason, and will be one of the top arms in the GWOC North this year,” Blumenstock said. “We have put a lot if focus on first pitch strikes and pitch location, and it is great to see it come to life in games.”
Baumgardner will continue to anchor the Green Wave rotation this season and has a chance to establish himself as one of the best pitchers in program history.
“Austin gets stronger as he gets deeper in games, and with his hard work and dedication this offseason I can see a jump in velocity and movement,” Blumenstock said. “He will challenge the school record for wins and has a bright future both in life and on the baseball field. It’s nice to have a kid like Austin at the top of our rotation. I always know we are going to have a chance to get a ‘W’ when he has the ball.”