Sightseeing limited on Mt. Hebron pitcher's vacation

June 19, 1994|By Katherin Dunn | Katherin Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Summer might not seem like much of a vacation for Mount Hebron's Jenny Joyce.

Although Joyce plans to travel -- to Oklahoma City and, she hopes, Sacramento -- she won't find much time for sightseeing.

Next month, the second-team All-Metro pitcher will try to help the Chesapeake Chargers earn a spot in the Amateur Softball Association 18-and-under national championships in Sacramento in August. Invited to the Hall of Fame Tournament in Oklahoma City, the Chargers must finish in the top eight of the 16-team field to earn a bid to the nationals.

The Chargers also could qualify by winning the Central Atlantic Region, which includes teams from Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington and Maryland. First, however, they must defend their state championship next weekend.

For Joyce, pitching with the Chargers offers a whole new level of competition. The team includes seven other All-Metro selections, including four first-teamers.

"I'm learning a lot," said Joyce, one of the youngest Chargers at 16. "With everything, with batting, with fielding, with just throwing overhand, it's helped me incredibly. It's like the college level. It's the next step."

Already an eight-year softball veteran, Joyce has pitched for four years. At Mount Hebron where she will be a senior in the fall, she has been the Vikings' only varsity pitcher all three years.

This spring, Joyce's pitching sparked the Vikings' to a sensational run at the state Class 3A title. She did not allow an earned run and took home the game ball after a 4-3 victory over Bel Air in the state semifinal.

Although the Vikings fell in the title game, it was the first time Mount Hebron had reached the final in 10 years.

Joyce ended the season with a 15-9 record and an ERA of 1.25 with 126 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 144 innings.

With good but not great speed, Joyce works hard on perfecting her repertoire of pitches. She's solid with the fastball and the change-up, but she wants to add a screwball and a drop curve.

"Jenny has to pitch locations," said Chargers coach Larry Alvis. "She has to get some movement on the ball and she's got to be able to move the ball around the plate. For Jenny to be successful, she's got to go outside with the ball because she's not overpowering. She's got to keep batters off balance."

Joyce knows that pitching in high school alone will not win her a spot on a college roster, so she has pitched all year around for most of the past three years.

Her drive to improve her game led her to the Chargers although her invitation to try out came somewhat by accident.

Alvis, who umpires high school games in Howard County, spotted Joyce at a scrimmage and invited her to try out for the Chargers -- and not just because of her pitching ability.

"I liked the way she communicated with her team," said Alvis. "A lot of times pitchers are really dominant, really arrogant. They expect their team to do this or do that. I don't like that and Jenny was very encouraging to her teammates. She took the load on her shoulders. That says some real nice things about her character."

Alvis said he also was impressed by Joyce's willingness to learn. Her position with the Chargers is a two-year commitment with this serving as a building year for next summer.

That suits Joyce just fine. Two years ago, she left Howard County summer softball and began playing in a tougher league in Anne Arundel County.

"I wanted to learn more -- not get beaten but just to go up against tougher teams because I knew that would help me in the long run," said Joyce. "Now, I'd like to keep improving my control and just be confident to throw all of my pitches at any given time."

In addition to playing a couple nights a week and several weekends with the Chargers, Joyce will put in many hours in the back yard working on her pitches with her dad, Mike, as her catcher.

Summer vacation is simply not a time she wants to waste.

A 3.7 student, Joyce will enjoy the break from her full load of gifted-and-talented courses, but she will fill the time with other commitments like softball and church work.

This week, Joyce joins other teens from St. John The Evangelist Roman Catholic Church and other churches to repair houses for the homeless in Appalachian Virginia.

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