04/20/06 — MOC softball trio making their mark

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MOC softball trio making their mark

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on April 20, 2006 2:09 PM

Mount Olive's three pitchers are about as different as they come. Two are from the big state of California, while the other is from a town off the coast of South Carolina. One throws hard, one's an off-speed pitcher and one is somewhere in the middle. Two are righties and the other's a lefty. And one's a three-year letterwinner, one's a junior college transfer and another's just a freshman.

But their differences have helped the Lady Trojans softball team to their best season in years.

"Our pitchers are all very unique, we don't have one pitcher who throws the same way," said Mount Olive coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham, whose Trojans won 25 games for the first time since 2000 this season. "All of our pitchers combined make a great team."

There's Shauna Cowdrey, the flame-thrower from Alta Lomo, Calif. Cowdrey's a three-year starter who saw the Lady Trojans win just 14 games as a freshman and 17 in 2005.

This year, however, Mount Olive is 25-28 and enters the CVAC tournament having knocked off regionally ranked Francis Marion last week.

"When I first got here, we weren't nearly as good," said Cowdrey. "How far we've come is amazing."

Cowdrey has a 10-12 record this season with a 4.89 ERA. She's thrown 14 complete games, has three shutouts and a team-high 111 strikeouts.

"Shauna has been a workhorse for us the last three years," Kylis-Higginbotham said. "She throws a very heavy ball, she moves in and out very well and really gets people off-guard. She is not a finesse pitcher."

Then there's Krystal Bourne, the crafty hurler from up the road in Redding, Calif. Bourne, in her first year at Mount Olive, transferred from Shasta College.

"It was a great opportunity," Bourne said about switching coasts. "It was an opportunity to come in and play, to meet new people and see a different culture. And I had heard good things about Jaime Kylis."

Bourne has two shutouts and a 10-11 record this season. She's tossed 10 complete games, has 79 strikeouts and an ERA of 6.06.

"Krystal is a finesse pitcher," Kylis-Higginbotham said. "Her ball is very light, she has a tight spin on her ball so when she's on, she's very, very effective."

And then there's Christine Ermer, the freshman lefty out of the bullpen.

"I am the slowest one," Ermer laughed. "Out of three of us, I am the off-speed pitcher."

Though she's made just five starts in her 28 appearances, Ermer -- a Mount Pleasant (S.C.) native -- has the team's only perfect game of the year, which she threw against Fayetteville State on March 14.

"Definitely, that was my highlight this year," Ermer said. "I actually went in during the first game to finish it and I was hitting all my spots. So coach was like, 'You're going to start the next game.'

"I didn't actually know I was throwing a no-hitter until about the third inning," she added. "The catcher who was catching me that day was like, 'You have a no-no going,' and I like, 'Now you just jinxed me.' But we had tough 'D' and they were hitting a lot of ground balls and we no-hit them."

Overall, Ermer has a 4-5 record with four saves, 37 strikeouts and a 4.44 ERA.

"Little Ermer, she's an off-speed pitcher," Kylis-Higginbotham said with a smile. "When she steps on the mound, she doesn't look intimidating -- she doesn't look scary. But her ball dances. She's only a little freshman out there, all 110 pounds of her. But she's just a phenomenal fighter, and we're lucky to have a kid like that.

"She's just amazing ... they all are. It's nice to know I have a deep pitching staff that are as different as they are. So if I have a team that attacks the heavy ball, I can go with my light throwers. Their different styles have helped us -- and will help us -- win games."

With a sucessful regular season in the books, the three hurlers now have their eyes set on the second season -- the CVAC tournament.

"Our goal is to win the CVAC tournament," Cowdrey said. "We can do it. We just beat the No. 10 team in the region, and now I feel we have the confidence to beat anybody."

Bourne agrees.

"We want to kick some butt at the CVAC tournament," she said. "We've earned some respect, but we need more because we've worked so hard this year."