Standing 6 feet tall with an imposing glare, Northwestern High School junior Jenna Robbins is an intimidating sight for opposing hitters. Behind them, Warriors junior catcher Macie Crew must be hiding a smile.
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“She looks mean but she’s not,” Crew said of her batterymate and best friend. “She’s a big teddy bear. She’s not mean but I think people think that of her.”
Robbins’ fastball, on the other hand, can be downright nasty. The program’s all-time strikeout leader consistently brings a 60-mph fastball. She has 595 career strikeouts, including 184 this season, and earlier this year passed her mother, Jodi (Noffke) Robbins, who was bumped to No. 2 with 542 career strikeouts in the early 1990s.
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As for Crew, she’s not intimidated by Robbins’ fastball. She’s been catching it since they were in 10-U. The teammates have known each other since Jenna was 4 and Crew was 5 playing coach-pitch along with junior shortstop Jamie Rutherford and sophomore first baseman Bry White.
“We’ve been best friends ever since,” Robbins said.
The friends will share a special moment Friday when Northwestern (27-2) plays Warren Champion (30-2) in the Division III state semifinal game at Akron Firestone Stadium. First pitch is 12:30 p.m. It’s Northwestern’s first state appearance since 2000 and eighth overall.
Crews will call all the pitches for Robbins, who said Crew knows her better than she knows herself. Their teamwork has helped Robbins go 19-0 with a 0.94 ERA. Robbins was 20-4 last year and 21-4 as a freshman.
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“Her confidence,” Robbins said of what makes Crew so good behind the plate. “She definitely keeps me in check the whole game.”
Robbins will rely on Crew early in Friday’s game. Warren Champion — making its ninth state appearance and fourth in the past seven seasons — is hitting .406 as a team and has pounded 43 home runs.
“I think we’re proud of where we’ve gotten and now we just play,” Crew said of the Warriors’ approach to the state tournament. “I like the big family that we’re a part of.”
Crew is pretty good beside the plate, too. She’s hitting .379 with 33 runs batted in. Robbins leads the Warriors with a .490 average, 62 RBIs and 13 home runs.
“It’s crazy because everyone around us is supporting us,” Robbins said. “It’s not just the regular season where the school supports you but now it’s like the whole community supports you. More people come to the games now. Even on social media we get a lot more people supporting us.”
Northwestern coach Missy Johnson is taking the Warriors to Akron on Thursday, a day ahead of their semifinal. The plan is to watch some of the Division I and Division IV games and get a feel for the state tournament and the stadium. Robbins said there weren’t any nerves Wednesday, but that will change when she steps on the rubber and looks for Crew’s signs from behind the plate for that first pitch.
Having Crew there will help, of course.
“I think (Johnson) knew the chemistry Jenna and I had and that I knew her pitches best,” Crew said of handling the responsibility of calling a game. “She’s got good spin and she has an off-speed pitch that gets batters. … She always wants to get the job done. I think our defense is playing well behind her, too.”
A Warriors’ win sends Northwestern to the state title game at 4 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Cardington-Lincoln (25-4) and Wheelersburg (24-2).
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