Cheryl Andrizzi was difficult to hit during the 1997 Greater Spokane League softball season.
Then the University pitcher became all-too-easy to hit.
No, batters didn’t start teeing off on her high-speed offerings. That would have been much less bizarre and much easier to accept.
Instead, Andrizzi became a target in two accidents that left her wondering whether softball was worth everything she put into it.
The first incident occurred during last year’s State AAA tournament in Yakima. Prior to the Titans’ opener against Bothell, a teammate taking a practice swing hit Andrizzi on the right upper arm, her pitching arm, with the aluminum bat.
Andrizzi pitched four innings against Bothell, but couldn’t continue when her arm stiffened. U-Hi, 16-0 during GSL play with Andrizzi on the hill, went 0-2 at the tourney.
The arm injury healed in time for summer league play. There, Andrizzi, also U-Hi’s top hitter last season, stepped up to the plate against one of the GSL’s best, Shanelle Test.
One of Test’s pitches hit Andrizzi on one hand and cracked her wrist bone. The injury required two months of healing time.
While recuperating, Andrizzi struggled to regain her interest in softball. Her break from the game ended when she caught a softball competition on TV. Andrizzi found herself eager to get back to the field.
“But it was hard for a while because I wondered why I was getting hurt so much,” Andrizzi said.
Andrizzi’s senior season begins today, during a GSL season-opener at Ferris. U-Hi returns its entire starting lineup except at shortstop, where sophomore Megan Owen, U-Hi’s backup pitcher, takes over for the graduated Lisa Muroya.
Ken VanSickle said that Andrizzi alone shouldn’t shoulder the burden of U-Hi’s high expectations. But the veteran Titans coach knows an ace in the hole when he sees one.
“Last year, I couldn’t have asked for anything more from her,” VanSickle said of Andrizzi, who hit .396 and led the team in runs batted in. “I just hope she can duplicate what she did a year ago.”
“I just have to watch out for flying bats now,” Andrizzi said.
Andrizzi has given a verbal commitment to Community Colleges of Spokane. She doesn’t know what her main position will be if she plays for the Sasquatch, but she would choose pitching over hitting.
That wasn’t the case in her younger days, when her father, Nick, had to push her toward pitching.
Andrizzi credits U-Hi’s defense for keeping down her earned-run average. She also praised the league’s overall pitching depth, especially Mead’s Janessa Karstens, an all-league infielder last year.
“She deserves all the respect,” Andrizzi said of Karstens. “I played on her team this summer, and she was very inspirational.”
Rogers’ Jamie Merrill, Ferris’ Kylee Curry and Test are other returning all-league pitchers. Lewis and Clark’s Kaylene Fountain, and Shadle Park’s Rachelle Stockman and Jessica Murphy add to the pitching depth. , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GSL SOFTBALL Today’s openers: University at Ferris; Mead at Mt. Spokane; North Central at Gonzaga Prep; Rogers vs. Lewis and Clark at Hart Field; Central Valley at Shadle Park. Defending champion: U-Hi. Returning all-leaguers: First team - Jenny Lytle, Ferris; Kim McDonald, G-Prep; Sarah Babin, LC; Janessa Karstens, Mead; Jamie Merrill, Rogers; Jen Madsen, Megan Mertens and Cheryl Andrizzi, U-Hi. Second team - Shanelle Test, CV; Kylee Curry and Kim Domonouski, Ferris; Missy Bonnano, Mead; Stacy Fisher, NC; Katy Oglesbee, U-Hi. Three years, three teams: Test, a junior, transferred to CV after playing at Mead as a sophomore and NC as a freshman. New coaches: Karen MacDonald replaces Paul Cooley at Rogers; Cooley moves to Gonzaga Prep to replace Denise Schlepp; John Barrington replaces Bridget Monahan at Mead; Raeleen Epperson leads first-year Mt. Spokane. Projected finish: U-Hi, Mead, Ferris, Shadle, CV, Rogers, LC, G-Prep, NC, Mt. Spokane.