Sports / The Northern Virginia Daily/nvdaily.com
Ansbro rises to challenge for Falcons
By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Central sophomore Bekah Ansbro relied on her curveball as her out pitch -- and to great effect -- during her freshman year of softball last season, but she has developed a new weapon this year.
All last season and throughout this past summer, Ansbro worked on perfecting her rise ball. She unveiled her new pitch this spring, and it quickly became her go-to pitch.
"I didn't throw it in games last year because it wasn't where I wanted it to be, but over the summer I nailed it, worked really hard on it and it's my new favorite pitch," Ansbro said on Monday.
Ansbro's rise ball -- and the handful of other pitches that she has stored in her arsenal -- has been giving opposing hitters headaches all season long. And in four games for the Falcons last week, Ansbro delivered time and time again with quality start after quality start.
Ansbro, The Northern Virginia Daily's Female Athlete of the Week for May 4-10, went 3-1 in those four games and allowed just four total runs in that span.
"When you look at four games in one week you get a little apprehensive but ... we had a little break in between and knew that she would get some rest. But I knew that she would do well, had confidence in her," Falcons coach Lisa Rhodes said. "The girls knew too. They weren't apprehensive at all. She's a great leader out there."
It wasn't just that Asbro was keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard -- she was doing it in dominating fashion. Asbro racked up a total of 48 strikeouts in that four-game span, while allowing just 12 hits.
The sophomore started the week with back-to-back 15-strikeout performances on May 5 and May 6, first in a 4-2 win over Skyline that stretched into nine innings, then again the next night in a 6-1 win over George Mason.
Last Friday, Ansbro struck out eight and allowed just three hits in a 1-0 loss to rival Strasburg. She then turned right around last Saturday and struck out 10 batters in a 1-0 win over Warren County.
Ansbro is averaging well over two strikeouts per inning this season, but she said the key to racking up such a high strikeout total is simply to not focus on trying to strike everyone out.
"It's a lot to handle mentally to try to do that because you feel like every pitch has to be perfect," Ansbro said. "You want to hit your spots and get your breaking balls to break, but if something doesn't go right on a particular pitch, you don't have to worry about it as long as you're not trying to be perfect, because it's not going to happen. No one's going to be perfect. It's easier to trust your team -- trust your offense to keep the runs coming, trust your defense to hold the other team down."
It also helps that Asbro has nearly untouchable stuff and great chemistry with freshman catcher Kylie Stottlemyer.
"She has ever-growing confidence in her catcher, which is number one because that was something coming into this year -- the catcher was new to her," Rhodes said. "... Bekah's got confidence in her, and you can tell.
"Kylie and I work together -- and Bekah, too, has input -- but it's just mixing the pitches up. Mixing up in and out, and mixing up speeds. We have our strategy of how we approach each game but [Ansbro] does a really good job keeping hitters off balance."
Central has thrived on the diamond behind Ansbro this season, as the Falcons are 13-3 with five regular season games remaining. Ansbro said the loss to Strasburg -- which snapped the Falcons' seven-game winning streak -- was a good "wake-up call," and she added that Central has really begun to realize its potential.
"We're starting to realize that we have something special going on and if we can continue to play like we have been we can make something great happen," Ansbro said. "I don't think it really hit us until this week when we saw what our record was, and we looked at all of our wins and we've had some great wins over some highly respected programs. It's really starting to sink in for all of us."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD