Sims more quiet, just as effective

Softball: Glenelg's Stephanie Sims has given up her grunt but has built on a talent base that made her Howard County's top softball player last season.

High Schools

April 04, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Stephanie Sims is not content to rest on her laurels.

Despite forging an enviable campaign that earned the Glenelg pitcher the county's Player of the Year honors and an All-Metro second-team selection last spring, Sims is constantly working to improve all aspects of her softball resume.

The senior has refined her repertoire of six pitches on a mound in her back yard, taken extra cuts to improve her hitting, and spent more time during practice at third base - her primary position when she isn't pitching.

Sims has even dropped her trademark grunt, which served as a warning to opposing batters that a pitch - usually a strike - was on its way.

Although Sims said she ditched the grunt to avoid tipping off batters, her catcher thinks Sims dropped it simply because she has outgrown the intimidation factor that the grunt provided.

"Now, she doesn't need the intimidation," senior Karyn Curley said. "Everybody's already intimidated by what she did last year."

What Sims did last season was compile a 13-1 record with a 1.12 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings.

She also batted .371 with 24 RBIs and 17 runs, not to mention team highs in slugging percentage (.643), doubles (eight) and triples (four).

With the assistance, the Gladiators reached the Class 2A state semifinals.

Yet Sims said she rarely thinks about last spring.

"It's kind of been put away for a little bit," she said. "Now that this season has started, I'm just looking forward to this season."

That type of focus has helped Sims get off to a solid start. She's batting .300(tied for the fifth-best average on the team) with five runs and four RBIs.

On the mound, Sims is 4-1 with an ERA of 2.10 and has 15 strikeouts against 13 walks.

Although she took the loss in a 9-0 thumping by No. 3 Severna Park last week, Glenelg coach Cameron Rahnama said Sims' greatest attribute is her mental toughness.

"She doesn't get rattled," Rahnama said. "She throws hard, and if you make a nice swing, it's going to come out hard. But that doesn't bother her because she trusts in her defense."

Mount Hebron coach Sal Milio said of Sims: "She's a very competitive young lady. ... She gives a little bit, but when times get tough, she has the ability to throw the ball over the plate. You're going to have to beat her because she's not going to beat herself."

Sims' rise to prominence as a pitcher is surprising considering that she never wanted to play the position when she began the sport at age 8.

But after a coach and her father convinced her to take the mound, Sims said she hasn't looked back.

"It's my favorite position because you're always touching the ball, and you have something to do with every play," she said. "There's a little bit of pressure, but I like it."

Sims, who spent her freshman year pitching every game for the junior varsity squad, saw sporadic action on the varsity team as a sophomore, recording a 3-2 record with a 2.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 35 innings.

She also foreshadowed her junior season by batting .426 with 15 RBIs and 11 runs.

Since then, Sims has expanded her plethora of pitches to include a fastball, drop, curve, screwball, rise and changeup. Of the pitches, Curley said she favors the curveball.

"If it's on, it works so well," Curley said. "I wouldn't want to hit it."

Some of Sims' success can be linked to a rigorous offseason training regimen. Sims, Curley and four other starters participate in Glenelg's strength program.

In fact, Sims and Curley are the only girls in school history to make the school's Power Club, which requires lifting a cumulative total of 700 pounds in four exercises.

But for all her accomplishments, Sims remains humble.

"I remember the first time I told her she made All-County, and she said, `Cool. Who else made it?' " Rahnama said. "She wanted to know about her teammates. She's always been like that."

Which is why Sims is more concerned with team success than personal success. Last season's 20-1 record was gratifying, but Sims and the Gladiators - who are 5-1 overall and 5-0 in the county in a bid for their second consecutive county title - are hungry for more.

"It was a dream season, but this is a new team," Sims said. "I know these girls are behind me, and they're all for this team. They want to win everything as much as I do."

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