Kessler concentrates on winning

April 17, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Emily Kessler doesn't show any emotion on the mound.

Glenelg's senior ace is all steely-eyed concentration, thinking only about the next batter and catcher Robin Ruppalt's signals.

Even when the strike call she's looking for doesn't come or a run scores on an error, Kessler never gets rattled.

"When she walks out there, she's all business," said Glenelg coach Chuck Struhar. "For a pitcher, it's the ideal demeanor simply because she has a job to do and that's how she looks upon it. She has fun, but she knows if she does her job and everybody else does their job, we'll be OK."

Since her sophomore year, Kessler has worked almost as hard on staying calm as she has on staying in the strike zone. She knows what can happen if she falls apart.

"If I'm having a bad day, a lot of times the team will have a bad day, too," said Kessler, who will pitch and play volleyball next fall at Washington College. "If I'm on the mound and something happens and I lose my composure, I could mess up on a play. If I play bad that doesn't help the team. People are counting on me to do a good job."

Kessler gets a lot of support from her teammates, on the field and off. She doesn't want to let them down.

After the Gladiators (6-1) lost in the regional final last year, they decided they wanted to go at least one step further into the state final four this season. Kessler wants to make sure she does everything she can to help this strong defensive team get there.

Although Kessler has played softball since seventh grade, she did not pitch until the end of her freshman year. When junior varsity coach Dean Sheridan tried out several players hoping to find some hidden talent, he found some in Kessler.

Sheridan told her to keep working over the summer. She did, and the next spring, she lost only one game on JV.

Last year, she moved up to varsity as the team's No. 2 pitcher. In 45innings, she walked only 23 while striking out 35. She finished with a 5-2 record and a 4.35 ERA.

This season, that ERA has taken a dive to 1.50. Until Thursday's 4-3 loss to Atholton, Kessler was unbeaten. She bounced back Friday with a 4-1 win over Mount Hebron.

Kessler faced only 24 Vikings batters allowing five hits, striking out five and walking just one. She has faced 169 batters and walked six.

"She snuck up on a lot of people," said Struhar. "She throws hard, but not that hard, but when you look at her stats, they're very impressive -- especially the walks."

Since the end of last season, Kessler has spent hours and hours of her free time pitching. Working on gaining speed, perfecting control and adding new pitches like a drop curve, she threw nearly every day during the summer and winter months.

"The only break I got was volleyball season," said Kessler, who helped the Gladiators win their first state Class 2A championship last fall.

Even during volleyball season, Kessler still found time to pitch on the weekends. She never had trouble finding a catcher, usually hooking up with Ruppalt or varsity backup Karen Cadogan.

Last winter, Kessler attended a clinic at Frederick Community College, and she went back for some extra instruction just before the season opened.

"I have never had a kid work harder and I think that's the key to her success," said Struhar. "Emily wanted something real badly and she worked hard and got it. A lot of kids want something; few kids are willing to work hard for it.

"She throws it over the plate. She's not afraid to throw it right in there, because she knows if they hit it, we can catch it. I can't ask for any more from Emily. Boy, I wish she were a junior."

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