Kelly softball pitcher Powell adjusts to life at center of circle

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Kelly catcher Kristen Vetter, left, and pitcher Kristen Powell helped lead the Hawks to the Class 2 final four. (Laura Simon)

BENTON, Mo. -- Kelly senior Kristen Powell has been a pitcher for most of her softball career, which started in elementary school.

Now she's the pitcher.

"Before that, I'd played first and I'd always pitched since I started playing softball when I was 10, but later on in the years I wasn't the main pitcher," Powell said. "But this year I knew I was going to be depended on to be the main pitcher, so I knew I had to work for it and not just goof off. I had to work this summer for it."

Powell put in extra time in the circle, both with her summer team and on her days off, to prepare for the high school season.

"I've pitched a lot of summer ball and everything else, but as far as game situations, I pitched a couple last year," Powell said. "I really had to work all summer long to prepare myself for this season because I knew that I was basically the only pitcher."

Kelly senior Kristen Powell delivers a pitch to a Notre Dame batter during their game earlier this season. (Laura Simon)

Now Powell, who was tasked with replacing all-state pitcher Danielle Dock, has led the Hawks back to the Class 2 final four for the fourth time in five years.

Powell said she served mainly as a pinch runner during Kelly's last trip to state during her sophomore season in 2008, meaning she will play a much more prominent role this time around.

"As far as like pressure and everything, I'm not really worried about it," Powell said. "I haven't really been fazed with a whole lot. I knew what was expected of me, so it'll be a different role, definitely, but I'm used to it."

Powell said she wasn't really worried about the switch from first base to pitching because of her preparation.

"We basically played with the same team all summer, and I was already comfortable with it," she said.

Kelly catcher Kristen Vetter, left, and pitcher Kristen Powell have developed a strong connection, which helps them get on the same page on the softball field.

She also was comfortable with the pitching rubber moving from 40 to 43 feet from home plate.

"I just really practiced it," she said. "I don't remember if summer ball had 43 feet or not, but I knew that that's what was going to happen. It kind of helps you get more movement on the ball, so I didn't really mind it that much. It took a little practice at first, but I got used to it."

Fellow Kelly senior Kristen Vetter, Powell's battery mate, likes what she's seen from her team's starting pitcher this season.

"She can move the ball," Vetter said of Powell. "That's what's great about her pitching. She can move the ball and she can hit my glove and she can throw some junk in there just to throw the hitter off."

The two share a first name and much more often than not a common plan for getting out batters. Kelly coach Melanie Heuring allows the seniors to call their own game.

"We just feel that that catcher and pitcher need to have that relationship and they know the batters just as well as we do when they come up and they remember where they hit and they remember the pitches they threw last time and know what not to do again, what not to throw again, so that works well in our situation," Heuring said.

Disagreement is rare between Powell and Vetter, even with all the choices they have. Powell throws as many as five pitches in a game with a changeup, offspeed pitch, riseball, dropball and curveball all in her repertoire.

"I call them and if she doesn't agree with what I call she shakes it off, but usually we're in tune with each other," Vetter said. "We've found ourselves in a few jams where I'm thinking the exact opposite than what she is, but we somehow manage to get there."

While Powell gets to make the final decision about what pitch will be thrown, the two talk about adjustments throughout the game.

"Eventually I'll figure out what she's talking about and then in between innings we'll talk about it and everything -- what pitches we need to throw to what batter depending on how they hit," Vetter said.

The ability to communicate successfully with Vetter eases Powell's mind in the circle.

"It's really nice actually because you don't have to deal with, 'Oh, why can't she think on the same page,'" Powell said. "It's nice to know she's thinking the same thing I am, so it doesn't cause conflict."

After a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in the state quarterfinals a year ago, Powell is grateful for one more chance to win a state championship.

"I just remember how awesome it was to get to go," Powell said of her two previous trips to the final four. "I didn't realize it. Now as a senior I realize what a privilege it was because I went freshman and sophomore year, so now it's like I'm a big part of this."

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