Kleiner's success is not based on her fastball alone

April 02, 1995|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

With her diminutive stature and cherubic appearance, Alison Kleiner doesn't look very imposing on the mound.

But don't be fooled by appearances.

The 5-foot Owings Mills sophomore is one of Baltimore County's hardest throwers.

"She has an incredible fastball that just blows everybody away," Owings Mills catcher Nikki Winik said. "I think people are intimidated by her."

Kleiner's fastball is not the only pitch that can intimidate a batter, however. When she's not overpowering the opposition, she's fooling them with her repertoire of off-speed pitches.

That combination of speed and finesse has made her one of the county's top pitchers.

She went 13-4 last season with a 1.06 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 119 innings to lead the Eagles to the Class 1A state championship game.

Kleiner is off to a 4-0 start with a 0.96 ERA this season. She has 36 strikeouts in 28 innings and has allowed just 17 hits.

"She's only going to get better as she gets older. She's not even halfway through her career," Owings Mills coach Lisa Meyer said. "And she's real modest. I asked her, 'Do you think you're a good pitcher?' She couldn't even say it, so I make her say, 'I'm a good pitcher.' "

Kleiner attributes part of her success to the chemistry between her and Winik. The two first became battery mates in the #F Maccabiah Games four years ago.

"Ever since then, I've been the only person who has caught her," Winik said. "I know what she wants to throw before she does."

Said Kleiner: "We have good communication. I don't shake her off very much, and when I do, they usually hit the ball."

When Kleiner entered Owings Mills last year, she was envisioned as the Eagles' pitcher of the future.

The future arrived sooner than expected, however.

Kleiner had shared the pitching duties with senior Jen Ziomek. But Ziomek was stricken with spinal meningitis late in the season, thrusting all of the playoff pressure upon Kleiner.

"Honestly, I didn't think about that," Kleiner said. "If Miss Meyer says to go to the outfield, that's what I'll do. If she says to go to the mound, I'll go to the mound and do the best I can."

Kleiner responded by pitching a one-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Towson to clinch the 1A-2A League title.

That win earned Owings Mills a berth in the county championship game against Dulaney, where Kleiner and All-City/County Player of the Year Julie Green each pitched seven scoreless innings before the Lions scored two runs in the eighth for the victory.

Kleiner then led the Eagles to two victories in the regional playoffs, allowing just one earned run and striking out 25 in 12 innings.

In a 23-0 first-round win over Central that was called after five innings, Kleiner pitched a one-hitter and recorded 13 of the 15 outs by strikeout.

Then in a 5-2 win over Mardela in the state semifinals, Kleiner pitched a two-hitter and did not allow an earned run.

"She didn't miss a beat," Meyer said. "I felt very confident in her abilities and the team felt comfortable, too. She is a real heady player and is much more mature than her years. 1/4 Experience-wise, she was probably right on par with Jen."

Kleiner, who has a 3.7 grade-point average, began pitching at age 7 in recreation leagues and has competed throughout the country on traveling teams. She's attended several pitching clinics, including the one run by pitching guru Jack Crandell.

This winter, however, Kleiner worked more on improving her hitting. Kleiner, the Eagles' leadoff hitter, batted .285 last season and is currently hitting .214.

"It's definitely one of my goals to become a better all-around player," Kleiner said. "I think it's mental. I do think a lot at the plate. I wonder, if I was pitching, what would I throw to me, and then I get nervous up there."

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