Armed with dropball, sophomore control pitcher emerging as Gallagher’s ace

first_imgA force on the mound from the moment she arrived, Wisconsin pitcher Eden Brock has stepped up in her sophomore campaign to emerge as the ace of head coach Karen Gallagher’s rotation. As the Badgers’ signature drop-ball artist, Brock substitutes blazing speed for pinpoint accuracy, and she leaves hitters wallowing in the inevitability of their next routine grounder to the shortstop.Brock came to Wisconsin with the same expectations of any freshman student athlete. She wanted to contribute to the team in whatever way she could, no matter how limited a role she played. But Gallagher immediately saw potential in the young right-hander, and Brock quickly became a regular starter. By the end of the 2004 season, Brock was arguably the team’s best pitcher, with a team-best 1.71 ERA and a reputation for frustrating opposing hitters.Armed with a drop ball that makes hitters’ knees buckle, Brock pitches aggressively to opposing batters. She looks for weaknesses that she can exploit with a properly timed changeup or fastball, and she goes up and down the lineup, inducing grounder after grounder.Brock’s precision is made necessary by her lack of power. She doesn’t have the kind of stuff that will make hitters miss the ball. Her 77 strikeouts from last year, while respectable, won’t raise any eyebrows. She has already passed that total this year with 88 whiffs, but her specialty remains her control. Brock has given up only 15 walks this season, and she walked only 15 all of last season.“She knows she’s not a fireballer, and she knows she’s never going to blow the ball by people,” Gallagher said of her young pitcher. “But I feel confident with her every time I put her on the mound.”Brock is not afraid to go after any hitter either, and she does so with such stoicism on the mound.“She’s very poised. Her emotions stay the same,” Gallagher said. “You don’t see her get very frustrated and you don’t see her change her emotion or her facial expression. That’s the sign of a good pitcher.”While she may be an emotional rock out on the mound, she has had some help off of it. Senior pitcher Katie Layne has helped Brock feel more at home, a considerable task considering the fact that home for Brock is all the way down in Florida. Layne, too, is a finesse type of pitcher that prefers an easy grounder to a strikeout, and she has provided Brock with invaluable knowledge of the game of softball.“We try to build up each other’s confidence,” Brock said of her relationship with Layne. “We are always making sure to go and congratulate each other on our [outings]. We’re just really supportive of each other.”Brock has needed that support a little bit more this year than last. Her ERA rose slightly from last year’s to 2.52 this season. That inflation could be explained by the fact that opposing teams have seen Brock and they know what to expect. But it might be more than a sophomore slump that has bloated her ERA. The team’s defensive woes might be a possible explanation.The Badgers have struggled defensively this season, and for a pitcher like Brock, who relies on her defense to get the out, that can spell disaster. As a result, Brock has had to adjust her mentality and her focus on the mound.“I’ve had to try to hit my spots a lot better and try to be a lot more perfect,” Brock said of her shift in mentality.Brock maintains that she has faith in her teammates. After all, they made only a few personnel changes in the field from last season’s team, one that was much more adept at defense.“When her game’s on and she’s throwing the ball well, they’re hitting ground balls,” Gallagher said. “It’s our job behind her to field them efficiently.”Brock continues to thrive despite whatever defensive deficiencies her team may suffer. She is the Badgers’ workhorse. After pitching more than 150 innings last season, the most on the team, she has already pitched 128 innings so far this year, 27 more than her counterpart Layne.Brock has also proven the most reliable pitcher on the Badger roster. She has gotten the most innings this year because she lasts the whole game. She has nine complete games this season, six of them shutouts.“She’s a tough pitcher,” Gallagher said. “Very rarely do I have to pull her out of a game. She wants the ball. She’s not afraid to go after the big teams, and she’s not afraid to go after the big hitters.”As Crash Davis said to a young “Nuke” LaLoosh in “Bull Durham,” “Strikeouts are boring. Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls. They’re more democratic.”Well, Eden Brock has made the fields of Goodman Diamond more democratic with her pitching, and she has given the Badgers hope for the future. If Wisconsin plans on being a contender in the Big Ten and beyond, it will be on the shoulders of Brock. She has only begun to tap into her potential, something the rest of the conference should be worried about.last_img

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