In total control of game

Softball: Batters attempting to catch up with Heather Donhauser's fastball or rattle the Fallston senior almost always come up empty.

High Schools

April 27, 2003|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Fallston senior Heather Donhauser has six pitches in her repertoire - all of which she can consistently throw for strikes.

Her most intimidating pitch, a fastball that approaches 60 mph - baseball's equivalent of a 90 mph pitch - peppers every part of the strike zone and often sends defenseless hitters back to the bench with their bats still on their shoulders.

What really sets Donhauser, 17, apart from other pitchers, though, is how she reacts on rare occasions when she allows a hit.

After all, you don't win 45 games in three-plus seasons by not being able to deal with a little adversity on the mound.

"I block everything out and I don't hear anything," said Donhauser, an All-Metro selection the past two seasons. "When people start getting hits, it just makes me mad and I focus to get out of it. I don't really pay attention to the batter at all."

Added Kelly Anne Kieffer, who co-coaches the Cougars with Pam Gauss: "A lot of pitchers, especially 17-year-old kids, get rattled by girls standing up on the bench and yelling. But Heather, it's like she's a stone wall. Nothing bothers that kid."

In the past four years, teams have tried just about everything to shake up Donhauser, but have had little success. A four-year varsity starter, Donhauser has compiled a 45-8 record and led the Cougars to consecutive Harford County and Class 3A North regional titles.

Donhauser won 11 games her freshman season, 14 as a sophomore and 12 last year, but she said that this has been her best season yet, pointing to the No. 4 Cougars' 15-0 record - 11-0 in the county.

Rotating games this season with junior Kirsten Wells, Donhauser is 8-0 and has been virtually untouchable. In 49 innings, she has surrendered 11 hits and walked just four batters, posting a 0.29 ERA.

In two games this season - a 6-0 win on April 14 against Aberdeen and Wednesday's 1-0 victory over North East - Donhauser tied a personal record with 16 strikeouts. The combination of Donhauser's right arm and Fallston's sturdy defense has made life difficult on the opposition.

"She strikes out so many, it's kind of weird when we even get a ball hit to us," said first baseman Ali Kelly.

Donhauser has pitched two no-hitters this season after tossing one last year. After shutting out North Harford, 4-0, Thursday, Donhauser was bemoaning a bunt single in the seventh that broke up her no-hit bid.

"That's the only way you're going to get better, by pushing yourself," said Gauss, who coached at Bel Air last season. "That's a great quality that she has."

Donhauser, who bats in the third or fourth spot in the powerful Cougars lineup, has a .485 average, second on the team behind junior second baseman Allison Borchers, to go along with four RBIs. She hit .348 last year.

But her production at the plate gets overshadowed by her exploits on the mound, where Donhauser combines several integral elements.

There's her pitch assortment, for one. She throws a fastball, changeup, off-speed pitch, riser, curveball and dropball, and she has sought the help of Kieffer, a former pitcher at Kutztown University (Pa.), in adding a screwball.

"When I get in trouble, I always know there is at least one pitch that is working well and I try to fall back on it," said Donhauser, whose 3.94 grade-point average earned her a scholarship to McDaniel College, where she'll play softball.

Kieffer and Gauss marvel at their co-captain's composure and consistency.

For DJ Hanzelik, the coach of North Harford, it's the pitcher's blend of speed and control that makes her so tough.

"She works the ball up and down and she's got the control where she can do that," he said.

Kelly, a teammate of Donhauser for four years, recalled numerous instances where opposing teams have loaded the bases against Donhauser and wound up with a zero on the scoreboard.

"She's gotten us out of some sticky situations," said Kelly. "When Heather throws you a fastball, you have to be halfway through your swing when the ball is still on her hip. And when she makes a mistake, she throws harder. I've seen her throw her best innings when she's mad."

Donhauser learned to pitch in the seventh grade under the direction of Jack Crandell, the pitching guru who has taught and developed scores of pitchers around the state as the founder and director of the Anne Arundel County Windmill Pitching clinic.

She still goes to Crandell about once a month during the offseason.

"She understands pitching pretty well and she has developed really good mechanics, and that's why her control is so good," said Crandell. "If you watch Heather, she's so consistent in her motion."

A four-year member of the Harford Cyclones club team, Donhauser will play this summer for the Grand Slam team in the Harford Community College summer league.

Her focus is on the present, however, as there is one thing missing from Donhauser's sterling high school resume.

"Heather and I always say that we're not graduating until we win a state championship," Kelly said. "For the past four years, that's been our goal."

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