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Abbot's pitching on the rise

Maddie Abbot remembers being able to hear her opponent in the dugout as she stood in the pitching circle waiting.

Villa Maria pitcher Maddie Abbot. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)
Villa Maria pitcher Maddie Abbot. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)Read more

Maddie Abbot remembers being able to hear her opponent in the dugout as she stood in the pitching circle waiting.

The words weren't a taunt or shouts of encouragement to the next batter. No, they were a warning.

"Don't swing at her rise ball," the player said to a teammate who was about to face the Villa Maria sophomore.

For Abbot, a righthander who considers herself a strikeout pitcher, the interaction was a compliment, one that she looks back on with pride.

The exchange likely happens often when Abbot, who also has a fastball, change, drop, curve, and screwball in her repertoire, steps into the circle, and more so after the opposing side sees her work through the lineup the first time.

The ace for the Hurricanes (7-3 overall, 6-1 Catholic Academies) has made a habit of going through the opposition's lineup.

Over 10 games and 69 innings pitched this season, Abbot has struck out 102. Last year, she struck out 100 through 18 games.

One reason for the remarkable step forward is the deception of her rise; the ball really does look as if it will stay level - until the last second, when it jumps over the player's bat.

But other things have turned Abbot into one of the most feared pitchers in the Catholic Academies.

Her change-up has made great strides with the help of first-year assistant coach Nicole Hartshorne, whom the girls affectionately call Nikki.

Hartshorne works with Abbot and catcher Mary Cate Butler during each practice.

The 45-minute-to-an-hour sessions have helped both Abbot and Butler, according to head coach Claire Emplit.

"Last year, five innings in, she would start to tire," Emplit said of Abbot. "This year, she can go the entire seven innings without breaking a sweat - no problem.

"She gets stronger as she goes along," Emplit added. "Five, six, and seven are stronger innings for her than one, two, and three."

With a huge league matchup against perennial powerhouse Nazareth Academy coming Wednesday, Abbot, Emplit, and the rest of the Hurricanes are excited about staying atop the conference standings.

"I've always been told I'm calm in pressure positions," Abbot said. "Those [tight league games] are fun to be in. They show how mentally tough you are and what you are able to do."

As for Villa's opponents, here's a tip: Whatever you do, lay off the rise.