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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

NMCC ace still throwing strong

Sunday, April 27, 2003

(Photo)
New Madrid County Central pitcher Heather Robey
NEW MADRID -- New Madrid County Central's softball team carried a winning streak of 47 games into the Chaffee Tournament.

The biggest reason for the extraordinary run has been the team's extraordinary pitcher.

Senior Heather Robey has been a dominant force on the mound for the Lady Eagles, winning 40 of the 47.

"She's the best softball player we've ever had here," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "I've been doing it for 11 years, and we've had some good pitchers and some good position players. But nobody dominates a game like her. We feel like if we get a run or two, it's game over."

Robey is currently 10-0 on the year, allowing two earned runs in 47 innings. She has allowed just 10 hits and issued just seven walks while ringing up 104 strikeouts.

Already the 17-year-old southpaw has recorded two perfect games, two no-hitters and four one-hitters. She has already signed a letter of intent to play for Three Rivers next season.

"It has been a great year so far," said Robey. "I've been fortunate to have a good defense behind me. We've got a lot of young girls that have stepped up this year and really put their hearts into playing."

Robey's fastball has been clocked at 61 miles per hour from 40 feet, the equivalent to a baseball coming in at 91. Batters have a reaction time of around four-tenths of a second after the pitch is released.

Along with the fastball, Robey has five other pitches in her arsenal -- a curveball, a changeup, a cutter, a dropball, and a riseball. She's also working on a cutter that drops. "The fastball is usually what I throw first to get ahead in the count," explained Robey. "The changeup is what I will follow it up with. I also throw a lot of cutter pitches, which start on the outside and go to the inside on a right-handed batter. It's hard to hit because they get it right on their hands. They either hit it foul or don't hit it at all."

Usually, the later happens. Most of the time, NMCC's defense is left anxiously awaiting the hit that never comes as Robey mows down batter after batter.

"She throws as hard as anybody we've ever faced around here," said Dexter coach Don Goodwin. "Plus, she's got an excellent changeup that can turn you around with the same motion. We only hit two fair balls against her and she struck out 14-of-18 batters. And she doesn't walk anybody."

Robey's dominance on the mound often overshadows her offensive abilities, where she carries a .541 average as the No. 3 hitter.

"She's one of the best sticks we've got on the team," said Rogers. "She really works at it. We start in February and she will play until October with traveling teams and things like that. She very easily could have been the point guard in basketball or the setter in volleyball. But she chose to concentrate on one deal, and right now, it has paid off with a two-year scholarship. If she continues on, I see no reason why a UT-Martin or a Murray State wouldn't pick her up for the final two years."

Robey is one of two seniors on NMCC's team this year and leads by example.

"We're one of the area's top teams in the spring with her," said Rogers. "We're probably a .500 team without her. It's a heck of a dropoff after her, but luckily she can throw every day. She's a real student of the game. I will really hate to see her go."

She has been in NMCC's rotation since she was a freshman. Her first appearance came in the Chaffee Tournament back in 2000, when then-ace Valerie Stanley ran out of gas. Robey entered the game and went on to beat Dexter 8-6. She has been pitching for the Lady Eagles ever since.

Robey finished her freshman year with a record of 2-0, allowing five hits over 12 innings with 13 strikeouts. Control was a problem in the early years though. Of the 75 batters she faced as a freshman, she walked 23 of them. After the graduation of Stanley, Robey took charge of the team as a sophomore in 2001. She posted a record of 9-1, allowing six hits and 59 walks with 150 strikeouts. She missed the last few games of her sophomore year with a shoulder injury.

"My freshman and sophomore years were a little shaky," said Robey. "I had quite a few walks. My dad really helped me out, and I've gradually gotten better. I've still got a lot to improve on though."

After her sophomore season, Robey dedicated herself to pitching in the offseason. Along with her father Mike and Dyersburg State softball coach Randy Hulme, Robey changed up her motion and hit the weight room to build up her stamina. The extra work paid off in the spring of 2002. In 37 innings of work, Robey allowed just three hits and 11 walks. She took 92 batters down via strikeout and posted a record of 9-0 for NMCC's undefeated team.

"She's got great speed, pinpoint control and has a variety of pitches," said Rogers. "She's just a real gritty competitor and fits in real well with our team. The other girls like playing behind her. She has really worked at it and it has paid off."

Robey credits much of her success to former catcher Morgan Hodges and current catcher Megan Rinehart, a transfer student from Portageville.

"If you don't have a good catcher, you can't throw anything," said Robey. "(Hodges and Rinehart) have been able to catch everything I've thrown at them. They play a very big part in what I do."

By playing only in the spring, Robey will never get the chance to see how far she can lead the Lady Eagles since the state playoff format is in the fall. Instead, she's hoping to add a few more wins to NMCC's 47-game streak.

"As a team, you're always hoping for an undefeated season," she said. "We had one last year and came close my sophomore year. Hopefully, we can have another one this year."