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San Diego Prep Review : Pitcher Has an Impressive--and Long--Day

It is impressive for a pitcher to go 26 consecutive innings without allowing a walk or an earned run.

But Michelle Wesson, a Christian High School junior softball pitcher, did not stop there.

She pitched those 26 innings in one day. It covered three consecutive extra-inning victories Saturday to win the Hilltop tournament championship.

Those were the most innings she has pitched in a day, but endurance is not new to her. In 1982, during a 12-and-under tournament, she pitched 41 innings during three days. In that stretch, she won by 1-0 scores twice, had a four-inning scoreless relief stint and lost 3-0 twice to the eventual national champion.

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That included a 24-hour period, in which she pitched 29 consecutive innings, 25 of them scoreless.

It did catch up with her last summer in a 15-and-under state tournament. She injured her rotator cuff and had to stop pitching for seven months. It was her longest layoff from softball since she began Pony Tail competition at age 7.

She wasn’t sure if she would be able to pitch this year.

But she hasn’t had pain in her shoulder and she has Saturday’s effort to show for her recovery.

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"(Saturday) was the first time I could start pitching hard because of the injury,” Wesson said.

Her workload in the tournament was supposed to be light. Christian High, a San Diego Section 2-A team, had a 4-4 record entering the event. In its opener, Christian had to play Patrick Henry, a 3-A team rated with Hilltop as the tournament favorites.

In an 8 a.m. game, Christian beat Patrick Henry, 3-2, in nine innings. That’s when Wesson knew her team was in for a long day.

“Everyone thought it was kind of a joke that Christian was even going up against Henry,” Wesson said. “After we beat them, I knew we’d be even-steven against the rest of the teams.”

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In a noon game, Christian High beat San Marcos, 3-1, in eight innings.

With less than an hour’s rest, Christian began the final against host Hilltop, another 3-A school, which has one of the county’s top pitchers, Sue Ellen Stallard.

“Before the game, I was wondering whether I would be able to let up on my speed without them being able to hit my pitching,” Wesson said.

There was little choice. Christian High’s only backup pitcher, Suzette Stone, was not able to play because her wisdom teeth were removed the previous day.

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Stallard and Wesson pitched eight scoreless innings before the international tiebreaker was instituted in the ninth. Each team was allowed to start its half of the inning with a runner at second base.

Christian High scored its runner on a sacrifice fly after a sacrifice bunt for a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, Wesson retired the side on a strikeout, a line out and a pop out.

“Michelle usually gets stronger the more she pitches,” Christian Coach Rene Palafox said. “You get her in a 10-inning ballgame and that’s her strength. You always want to have a back-up pitcher, but with Michelle, we haven’t needed one.”

Wesson became Christian’s only pitcher midway through last season when, as a sophomore, she went 14-4 and struck out 213 batters.

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She’s not the same pitcher, though. She has given up power pitching. Now she concentrates on breaking balls and hitting the corners of the plate.

“I haven’t been able to get my speed up to par, so I haven’t been striking out that many people,” she said. “I’ve just been pitching slower and throwing a lot of junk, but it has been effective.”

Because of Christian High’s success at the Hilltop tournament, Wesson has high expectations for the playoffs. It’s a goal shared by her sisters, who are starting outfielders on the team. Janelle, a senior, plays center; and Sara, a freshman, plays left.

“I think we can do it,” Michelle said about winning the 2-A championship. “When we won the Hilltop tournament, we beat all these 3-A teams. It would be funny if we couldn’t beat 2-A teams.”

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It would also be surprising if Michelle Wesson didn’t pitch every inning.

Mission Bay, in its first week of City Western League baseball action, has had plenty of hitting and pitching--from the same player.

In their league opener Wednesday at La Jolla, the Buccaneers had 16 hits as they beat the Vikings, 17-3. Sean Rees led the way with four hits and five RBIs. Rees took the mound for Mission Bay’s home opener Friday, pitching a one-hitter against Kearny and striking out seven. He also had two doubles in four at-bats to drive in three of the Bucs’ six runs.

Although Rees’ performance lends credence to Mission Bay’s status as league favorite, the Bucs are not alone in good pitching.

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League rival Clairemont, which graduated most of last year’s starting lineup, has an impressive newcomer in sophomore Andy Williams. Wednesday, the 6-foot 1-inch right-hander struck out 14 Kearny batters en route to a five-hit shutout victory.


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