Butler serving Western well

Standout: This senior's right arm has been a potent weapon for the Doves' softball and volleyball teams. With time, she has gained an appreciation for her talent.

April 08, 2001|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Watch Western's Ericka Butler pitch a softball or hit a volleyball and one word comes to mind -- power.

"She's a power pitcher. You can see it in her delivery, the way she explodes off the mound," said Doves softball coach Shawn Stoliker.

The same is true on the volleyball court, where an explosive arm swing made the All-Metro first-teamer one of the area's hardest hitters.

Every varsity team Butler has played on at Western has won a Baltimore City championship -- thanks in large part to the power in her right arm. The softball team is on course to add another crown, at 4-0 in league.

Thursday, Butler pitched a no-hitter in a 22-1 victory over Edmondson. Friday, she threw a one-hitter at Patterson for a 12-1 win. In three outings this season, Butler has posted a 0.46 ERA and has struck out 22 in 15 innings. She also hits .454 and has smacked a home run and two doubles.

In her first three years at Western, Butler threw nothing but a fastball. That was enough last season to post a 10-3 record, 92 strikeouts in 70 innings, three no-hitters and five one-hitters.

"There was always something about the way she changed speed on her pitch," Stoliker said. "Last year's regional semifinal [a 3-2 loss to Dulaney] was her best game ever. She threw a one-hitter, but the way she mixed up her pitches by taking off a little here and putting a little on there, the girls couldn't touch her.

"Just in the last three weeks, we finally got her to throw a changeup, and that has really added a different aspect to her game."

Butler is also adding new aspects to her volleyball game.

In a city league that put up little blocking against her, Butler's spikes faced few challenges. Although she averaged 2.8 kills a game and contributed 16 kills, seven blocks and seven aces to the city-title victory over Poly, she knew she needed to face better competition.

Headed for Morgan State to study architectural engineering on a full volleyball scholarship, she is getting ready now.

After two years with the Starlings club team, she made the difficult decision this spring to move to the Time Out For Sports Orange Crush, one of the Chesapeake region's top club teams.

"Once I played for Western, I knew I wanted to go to a higher level. That's why I switched club teams," said Butler, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter. "I've learned a lot. It'll get me ready for the intensity and the faster pace I'll see in college."

Now, she is learning to fine-tune her game and get the most out of her power and athleticism.

"She hits as hard as anyone on my team, but her game was pretty unpolished," said Time Out coach Ian Blanchard, who guided Dulaney to back-to-back state titles the past two years.

"Ericka had the power but didn't know how to control it. She was prone to a lot of mistakes. It's a tribute to her athletic talent, her work ethic and her intelligence that she's been able to come as far as she has. Technically speaking, she's about as good as anybody on my team right now."

Butler's move to the Time Out club impressed Morgan coach Ramona Riley-Bozier.

"Some kids like all the attention on them," Riley-Bozier said. "And if Ericka had stayed with [the Starlings], she would be the go-to player once again. She's probably still a go-to player with this team as well, but it's more of a challenge. ... That says a lot for her."

When listing Butler's most impressive athletic qualities, all of her coaches rank willingness to adapt right up there with her power and athleticism.

That never showed more than last fall when Butler was surrounded by a lot of youngsters on the Doves volleyball team.

"She played wherever she could and never complained," said Doves volleyball coach Shirley Williams, who first coaxed Butler to play as a freshman. "She did what she could to help the team and the young players. She was one of the most coachable, hard-working kids in 30 years of coaching. She was a delight."

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