The softball career of Winslow Township pitcher Callia Abbott turned around because of a cellphone.
Growing up, Abbott had issues controlling her emotions in the circle. One bad pitch led to another, and possibly tears if she couldn't turn things around.
"I would get so frustrated with myself because I'm such a perfectionist," said Abbott, whose habits still apply to the organization of her homework and school projects. "Every little thing has to be there."
After Abbott reached her lowest point in the eighth grade, her father made her an offer: She could get a cellphone if she made it through a season without crying.
She did, earning herself a Chocolate slide phone, but the lessons she learned helped her put together a breakout senior season.
"A few years ago, if I threw a bad pitch, I'd get right on myself," Abbott said. "I kind of just grew up on the mound."
Abbott can't help but crack a smile with a hint of disbelief when her 289 strikeouts are mentioned. She hoped just to reach 200 strikeouts this season, but Abbott, who has never had a season like this before, leads South Jersey in Ks in 139 innings. She also has a 1.47 ERA.
"She's a hidden jewel amongst pitchers in New Jersey," Winslow Township coach Carl Taylor said.
In addition to improved mechanics and the addition of a rise ball she picked up from watching YouTube videos, Abbott has excelled because she has stayed calm and focused. The slide phone has been replaced by an iPhone, but she has continued to improve her demeanor on the field.
"She was very flighty, unfocused, and would reach for real strange ways to focus on the mound," said Taylor, who once asked Abbott in a mound conference what she was thinking about after throwing 12 straight balls. She was singing a song in her head to try to calm herself.
"She's matured from the middle of last year to now," Taylor added. "Her focus is better, and now she has a purpose."
On May 6, Abbott didn't have her best stuff and could not make it through an 11-5 loss to Cherry Hill West. Winslow Township played the next day against Lenape, but Abbott rebounded and fanned eight. She also gave up only one earned run in seven innings.
"I didn't even think about the day before when I was on the mound," said Abbott, who has been considering attending Division III Plymouth State in New Hampshire. "Everyone has an off day, so it wasn't too bad."
There aren't any tricks or strategy behind Abbott's success. She just focuses on the next pitch.
"I just throw," Abbott said. "I don't put too much thought into it. When I think, I overthink. When I do that, I started messing up. So I try not to let myself think too much. I just focus on one pitch and do it.
"I go out there with the mentality of throwing one pitch at a time. Once you throw a pitch, you can't take it back."