On most days, in most situations, Becca Carpenter prefers blending into a crowd.
But once the hard-throwing Southeastern High School junior laces up her cleats and strides to the pitcher’s circle, any ‘aw shucks’ shyness evaporates.
“I don’t really know how to describe it,” Carpenter said, laughing. “I love pitching, but it’s kind of weird for me.
“Normally, I’m not big in groups. I’m not a person who wants any attention. But when I’m on the mound, it’s completely different. It’s such a competitive sport, and that’s what I’m all about.”
The Trojans’ ace fanned 191 batters in 161.3 innings as a sophomore … and it’s just more of the same this season.
Her 92 strikeouts through 81.3 frames have Southeastern off to a 15-2 start and, at 9-2, vying for a share of an Ohio Heritage Conference title for the first time since 2003.
The Trojans host rival Northeastern, 14-3 and 9-1, Thursday in a key OHC battle.
“She can hit the ball as well as anyone in the state, but if you don’t have somebody who can sit people down, you’re going to have trouble winning,” said veteran coach Randy Delaney, who is 379-214 in 25 seasons.
“You don’t get off to the (13-0) start that we did without a pitcher the quality of Becca.”
A broken finger held Carpenter to just 10 innings as a freshman, while a torn meniscus nearly derailed her sophomore campaign.
Despite the setbacks, Carpenter has a 13-2 mark and 1.40 ERA and has allowed just 40 hits.
“I really started getting into (pitching) and working hard on it around eight or nine (years old),” she said. “My dad chased a lot of balls. It was really hard when I first started, but I liked every bit of it, and I did get better. Now I’m just confident.”
Delaney took the right-hander aside in early April after she surrendered an uncharacteristic eight hits to Catholic Central and issued a quiet challenge.
“Becca was really PO’d after that game,” he said. “When things aren’t going well, she tends to punish herself.
“I told her, ‘Whether you realize it or not, you’re a leader to your teammates. If you carry stuff to the mound, it carries over to them.’
“It’s about leading by example,” he added. “No matter what happens, you still have to go out and pitch.”
Carpenter took Delaney’s advice to heart.
“I’ve always been really hard on myself,” she said. “But after having that little talk I realized I have to always have a good attitude, because we feed off each other. …
“It’s an ongoing challenge, definitely. But I’ve been working on it and it’s getting better. I try to just focus on getting the job done now, instead of trying to be perfect.”
Southeastern’s run production is sparked by sophomore third-baseman Katie Mitchell, who is hitting .569 with five triples and three home runs.
“Our toughest games are at the back of the schedule,” said Delaney, whose squad has advanced to the D-IV district finals three of the past four years, including a regional berth in 2012.
“That’s good for tournament prep, maybe not so good for a league title. Either it will really prepare us … or destroy all confidence. The tough stuff’s definitely coming.”