Athlete of the Week: Stead an ‘all-around player’ for Central softball

Kristina Stead Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Kristina Stead emerged as one of the more productive hitters for Central High School’s softball team during its run to its first Virginia High School League Group 2A state championship game appearance last season. While doing so, she was being groomed by then senior Bekah Ansbro to be the Falcons’ next starting pitcher.

Flash forward to 2017 and Stead’s role – as expected – has increased to the point to where junior is doing a little bit of everything for the Falcons and first-year head coach Sue Rubenstein.

“She is just so solid. She can hit, she can play the field and her pitching has improved to several different types of pitches. And she’s got another year to go with me, so she really has opened up, blossomed quite a bit,” Rubenstein said earlier this week. “She’s a confident player, so when people see her up there they feel that energy. … Kristina really brings the all-around player to this team.”

Stead, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Athlete of the Week for April 3-9, showed just how productive she can be in all facets for the Falcons during the team’s 11-0 win over Rappahannock County at home on April 3.

Not only did Stead shut out the Panthers over five innings – the game was cut short due to the mercy rule – while limiting Rappahannock County to two hits and three walks while striking out nine, but she went off at the plate as well. She went 3-for-3 with a home run – her first of the spring – a double and six RBIs.

“I was relaxed,” Stead said. “At the plate it’s the same thing as last year, when I got up there I just told myself not to think about anything, just get up there and do your thing. And that’s what I did.”

That comfort level is the key to Stead’s output on the diamond. Now in her third year as a varsity starter, the admittedly shy Stead has become increasingly settled into her role with Central as she’s gained experience.

Last season Stead, who primarily played first base but drew praise from former head coach Lisa Rhodes for versatility in the field, batted .333 (28-for-84) with a homer, eight doubles, five RBIs and 18 runs scored. In limited action in the pitching circle, Stead was 3-0 with a 0.58 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings.

Prior to Thursday’s game against Warren County, Stead was batting .500 (9-for-18) with nine RBIs to lead the Falcons in both categories. As Central’s primary starting pitcher, she was 2-2 in her first four starts, posting a 1.31 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 32 innings.

“I think confidence comes when you’re doing well and she is doing well, so that helps her to succeed,” Rubenstein said. “So now we can start working on some other things that will make her a lead. People aren’t gonna be able to touch her (when she’s in the pitching circle). You get nine, 10 strikeouts a game, that’s where we want to stay consistent, right there.”

Stead’s success in the circle included a five-inning no-hitter against Stonewall Jackson on March 24.

Though Stead said she felt nervous early in the season in her increased pitching role, she added that she has been able to draw upon the lessons learned from working with Ansbro – now a pitcher at George Mason University – in order to better serve her teammates in a similar capacity. That includes trying to become more of a vocal leader for the Falcons.

“I definitely learned a lot from (Ansbro) I feel like I’m more of a leader this year and I’m just trying to fill into her footsteps and be the best I can be,” Stead said.

“I was a little scared when I was thinking about it because I’m not really the type of person to talk a lot. But I realized that I kind of have to be and I’ve gotta be there for my team.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com