Streak a result of stellar pitching

The Bowling Green softball team has been on a tear as of late, winning 12 of their last 15 games.

In past years, the Falcons have had streaks like this thanks to their great hitting, but not this year.

The Falcons recent string of W’s has come thanks to outstanding pitching, and no pitcher has been more outstanding than freshman Liz Vrabel.

The Falcons’ ace has been nearly perfect during this stretch and is giving MAC opponents fits. Vrabel has accumulated gaudy numbers during this time, racking up seven wins to go with her paper thin 0.61 ERA.

Stats like these make her coach, Leigh Ross-Shaw, think she has found a missing link.

“We’ve always had great hitting here, and our defense has gotten better since I got here,” she said. “But we know that pitching wins, and Liz has given us that.”

But finding this missing link wasn’t an easy task for the veteran coach.

After winning a state title and throwing five no hitters en route to a 19-0 record her senior year, Vrabel decided that maybe it was time to drop softball and concentrate on her studies. But after much contemplating, Vrabel figured out that she really did want to play softball, and Bowling Green was the place to do it.

“I chose Bowling Green because it isn’t too far away from home,” Vrabel said. “I also chose it because of Coach Ross-Shaw, she makes you feel like a member of a family, and I like how she does that.”

Ross-Shaw was happy to make her a part of the Bowling Green family.

“You never know how some kids will turn out,” she said. “But after seeing Liz, we knew we had to have her.”

But getting used to college wasn’t an easy task for Vrabel, who was somewhat reluctant to step into the role of staff ace.

“She had a hard time coming in as a freshman and being our number one pitcher because of the older players,” Ross-Shaw said. “But they are convincing her that they are okay with it.”

Just getting to college didn’t make it a done deal for Vrabel, who knew she still had a lot to learn about the game. In high school, Vrabel admits to relying on her overpowering fastball a little too much. But with the help of her coach and pitching instructor, she has learned an arsenal of pitches.

“Liz is a really dedicated player,” Ross-Shaw said. “She came in with a fastball and a decent curve. Now she has control of a screwball, a riser, a curveball, and a changeup.” Now Vrabel focuses on ways to trick batters.

“I expected to learn a lot this year,” she said. “I’ve worked on what pitches to throw to batters, it’s been a lot of work and a lot to learn.”

Hard work isn’t the only ingredient to Vrabel’s success. Her coach admits that there are times when Vrabel can’t hear any of her teammates when she’s on the mound.

“I’m in the zone when I’m out there,” Vrabel said. “The only person I can hear is my dad, because he’s been coaching me all my life.”

Vrabel also knows she isn’t just a one-woman show. She admits that she has relied heavily on her teammates and even finds them to be a luxury.

“I think I’m just one of nine players out there helping to win games,” Vrabel said. “With the defense here, I feel that even if the ball is hit hard, it will still be an out.”

Probably the best part about Vrabel is her long-term possibilities, which her coach is very excited about.

“I’m just hoping we can keep her healthy,” Ross-Shaw said. “I think she’s going to be a pitcher other teams won’t want to face. I would really like to see her break a lot of records in her time at Bowling Green.”