For her, pitching is serious business

When Long Reach's Amy Guyton pitches, neither she nor opposing batters are likely to be smiling.

April 05, 2006|By GLENN GRAHAM | GLENN GRAHAM,SUN REPORTER

Long Reach senior pitcher Amy Guyton takes plenty to the mound each time out, starting with a choice of seven pitches and a demeanor that can't be rattled.

There's one thing you'll rarely see from the three-time All-County standout, though.

"I try not to smile on the mound," Guyton said. "When I throw a couple balls, everybody will try to cheer me up, but that's not what I try to do. If I do smile, I stop myself until I get a straight face to stay focused. I love the pressure - that's when I do my best."

Away from the mound, Guyton is all smiles, and why not? After going 17-3 with 154 strikeouts and an 0.76 ERA last season, she has pitched the Lightning to a 6-0 start without allowing an earned run this spring. In 35 innings, she has given up 16 hits, struck out 58 and walked two.

Her contributions don't stop there. She is batting .381 with five RBIs and leads the team in doubles (four) and stolen bases (six). Long Reach coach Chuck Struhar has come to rely on and appreciate all the things Guyton can do.

"More than anything, Amy brings consistency," he said. "She's probably the most complete player around, on the mound, at bat, on the bases - everything."

Guyton, a team captain, thrives on being the center of attention on the mound, and the tighter the game, the later it gets, the better.

Early last week, the Lightning was locked in a scoreless tie after seven innings with upstart Hammond. Guyton wasn't fazed, and the Lightning came away with a 1-0 win in eight innings.

"Those are the games you have the most fun," she said. "Some players get scared when they come across certain situations, but those are the ones I love. I live for that."

Guyton went from being a thrower and good athlete as a freshman to a student of pitching in the following years. Playing summer ball and attending pitching clinics helped her develop a number of pitches - her fastball, curve and rise are her favorites - and exactly where to throw them.

"The thing that always impresses me with her is that she may not throw the ball as hard as others, but she gets you out," said Mount Hebron coach Sal Milio, whose Vikings scored one run in two games against her last season. "She's the type of pitcher that you go into a game against her, and then after the game you ask yourself: `How did we not hit her?' She just changes speeds, moves the ball around and has a real good idea of what she wants to do. And what really makes her good is she makes the other players around her better."

Long Reach junior third baseman Caroline Peddicord, who is backing up Guyton on the mound, can attest.

"Amy just works so hard and does so well, it makes all of us comfortable. She's just really calm and knows what she's doing on the mound," she said.

Guyton followed her older sister, Nicole, into softball and pitching. The two overlapped one year in high school when Amy was a freshman, and she made the most of that time. Amy started out as a catcher, but eventually took over the pitching duties and has been the mainstay ever since.

"Watching Nicole pitch really helped me out a lot," Guyton said. "When I saw her come across any difficult moments, I learned from them and knew what to try to do differently."

The difficult moments are few and far between for Guyton these days. She has a knack for keeping opponents out of big innings, which usually translates into wins for the Lightning.

"She's learned to stay composed on the mound," Glenelg coach Dean Sheridan said. "Last year - in a 2-1 loss - it was a situation where we had opportunities in a couple innings, but could never get the second and third hits. She seems to always do a great job in the important situations. That's to her credit, as it would be with any athlete - you can be good, but if you're good when it counts the most, that helps a lot."

Guyton is still undecided on going to either Catonsville Community College for two years and transferring, or going straight to a four-year college.

At a childhood visit to Sea World, she was picked to participate in a dolphin show and has wanted to study marine biology ever since.

"I already loved animals as it was, and then when I got to do that, I knew it was what I wanted to do," she said. "Everybody has been like, `Oh, that's just your childhood dream,' but it hasn't changed."

Right now, her attention is set on leading the Lightning to an extended run in the playoffs. Long Reach is still looking for its first state tournament appearance.

"We lost six seniors from last year, but this team has come together and we've stepped up," she said. "We have girls who have barely played before and they've come in and hit in situations where we needed them. This team has come around and we're going to be tough to beat."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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