Senior pitcher within reach of single-season strikeout record
Overpowering and intimidating are frequently used when describing a strikeout pitcher.
But even as senior pitcher Becky Gray continues to climb MSUs all-time career strikeouts list, none of the usual terms apply.
I wouldnt say Im an overpowering pitcher, Gray said. I just try to keep em off balance and hopefully get them to ground out. Thats my goal.
Despite looking for the ground-out, Gray has amassed 381 career strikeouts. The mark is good enough for second all-time at MSU, just 28 away from breaking Stacey Smiths record set in 1997.
The right-hander has all the stats to earn the terms overpowering and intimidating, but the slender 5-foot-10, 150-pounder does anything but strike fear into opposing batters.
Her fastball reaches 62 mph, but its just one of six different pitches in Grays arsenal. Gray also utilizes a change-up, curveball, screwball, riseball and dropball.
When Im ahead in the count, Gray said, We usually go with the curveball or the riseball to get them to chase a bad pitch.
But even Gray gets confused when it comes to choosing her best pitch.
Depending on the day, its usually a curveball or a dropball, she said. The dropball is usually most effective when Im ahead in the count.
Whether batters step into the box and tremble doesnt matter to Gray (12-14, 3.13 ERA). Her 12 wins and 149 strikeouts lead the Spartans (23-29 overall, 4-10 Big Ten).
Entering the 2002 campaign, thoughts of breaking the record seemed far-fetched. Grays strikeout total was 232, and her previous season-best was just 107.
But Gray breezed past her previous season high after 34 games, with an 11 strikeout performance in a 2-1 win against Oakland April 3 at Old College Field.
Becky is more determined this year, Spartan head coach Jacquie Joseph said. Sometimes you will have seniors that really sense the end of the line is coming, so theres more of a sense of urgency.
She is pitching with a lot of confidence. I think that all adds to her elevated game.
Gray will have the chance to move closer to Smith today, as she takes the mound for MSU against Central Michigan (29-13, 17-1 Mid-American Conference). The Spartans defeated the Chippewas 2-0 on March 5.
In the first meeting, it was sophomore pitcher Jessica Beech who threw a complete game shutout to propel MSU to victory.
Junior catcher Lacy Hauxhurst called the game March 5, and will start behind the plate again today. Hauxhurst said she has a good feel for the Chippewas batters.
If Gray finds herself in a full count, Hauxhurst said she wont hesitate to call the curveball.
I know what pitches to call, Hauxhurst said. Weve seen them so many times before. So we know what pitches they like to hit and what pitches they arent very good at hitting.