By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Nothing fazes Bekah Ansbro.
The Central sophomore pitcher doesn't let one bad pitch bother her. Even if she gives up a home run or a big hit, she simply bears down and focuses on the next pitch, the next batter.
It was her ability to stay calm that helped her have a great season, and helped the team soar to new heights.
"She's got the same facial expression, the same momentum, the same attitude towards every batter and that's pretty crucial," Central coach Lisa Rhodes said. "Even [in the regional quarterfinals] in the 10th inning when the [Brentsville] girl hit the double out to right center and scored two runs, that's the perfect time for the air to go out of her balloon, but it didn't. She got us out of the inning."
Rhodes said Ansbro's calmness and positivity carries over to the rest of the team, and it's part of the reason the players loved to play defense behind her.
"The girls really trusted her, and she trusted them. She really did," Rhodes said. "You can't be a pitcher and carry the team. You can't be a championship team with just a pitcher. You have to have the defense and you have to have the short game and the offense. And she had that all behind her. It was a pretty good little concoction that we had."
Ansbro finished with a 0.81 ERA. In 126 innings pitched she struck out 199 with only 25 walks, and a 15-2 record, all just part of the reason she's The Northern Virginia Daily's 2014 Softball Player of the Year.
Ansbro started the season sharing time in the circle with senior Sydney Plum, but a few games in, the starting job became Ansbro's full-time and she certainly delivered.
She said one of her favorite parts of the game is striking out hitters.
"I think making batters look foolish is really fun," Ansbro said. "It's just funny to see the looks on their faces, if I throw a really good breaking pitch or if I throw a good change-up and get them swinging way in front of it. Just to see their eyes get really big and know that it was a good pitch. It's a lot of fun for me to see that."
Ansbro saw plenty of that this season. One of the biggest reasons for her 199 strikeouts was her favorite pitch -- the rise ball.
"It's such a difficult pitch to hit because you see everything coming in on one plane or moving down, and not a lot of girls have it so not a lot of girls are used to seeing a ball jump up at the last second," Ansbro said. "It seems like everyone was under it. It's an effective pitch for me."
Ansbro had several games where she had 15 strikeouts, and said one her favorite games was against a talented George Mason squad where she had 15 Ks.
There's no question that Ansbro was a big part of Central's success this season, and she did her part offensively as well. She finished with a .323 batting average, 13 RBIs and 12 runs scored. The last two games of the season, Rhodes moved Ansbro into the No. 4 spot in the lineup.
"I moved Sydney [Plum] out of the four spot, and then I thought if I move her out of the four spot, I have to put somebody in the four spot," Rhodes said. "Really when I think of somebody that won't let it get to them mentally, it was Bekah. I told her that. I said I'm not expecting home runs. I'm not expecting anything more than what you've been doing. I know that you're not going to let this freak you out, or get to your head or affect you at all."
The Falcons finished with a 17-4 record and won the Conference 28 title. Even though they lost to eventual Group 3A state semifinalist Brentsville 1-0 in 10 innings in the regional quarters, Ansbro was very happy with the success of the team.
"It was a magnificent team, and I couldn't have asked for better teammates. I'm so blessed to have been able to have been part of this team," Ansbro said. "It took a while, but I think now we know that it's one of the best teams Central has seen yet. To be able to come back here one day and see our conference championship plaque in the trophy case, and know that I was a part of that, is special. It's going to be a great feeling."
In the offseason, Ansbro is part of a travel softball team based in Vienna and coached by Holly Farris, who played at Texas A&M.
Ansbro said the team travels all over the country, and it has added a lot to her game.
For the Falcons, Ansbro said she wants to get at least one more strikeout next season and hit the 200 mark, and she wants to eventually break the school strikeout record.
She also wants the team to continue what it started this season.
"I'm hoping we can win conference again," Ansbro said. "That would be a nice goal to try to get to every year, and hopefully go further."
Rhodes said that the sky's the limit for Ansbro over the next two years.
"She's grown so much," Rhodes said. "She's only halfway done. I'm so excited to see what she brings to the table February of next year."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd