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Southern Section Softball : Ivy Pinkerton Is Keeping Western’s Foes on Guard

Times Staff Writer

Poor Western High School.

There was its softball team this season, without a starting pitcher. Without even any true pitchers on its roster.

And you know what league Western plays in. The Orange League.

And you know about pitching in the Orange League. The competition is pretty darn good, particularly at one school: Valencia. Do the initials M.G. mean anything?

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But before you get out the checkbooks to contribute to the “Buy the Pioneers a pitcher” fund, take note of Ivy Pinkerton.

Pinkerton isn’t a pitcher. Not by her account. Not by her coach’s account. No, Pinkerton, a junior, is a shortstop. And a fine shortstop she is, with a good arm and very few errors.

“I feel comfortable at shortstop,” Pinkerton said. “I didn’t want to be a pitcher.”

But Western, which plays at Charter Oak in a Southern Section 3-A quarterfinal game today, was in a bind. So Western Coach Debbie Harless moved Pinkerton from her comfortable spot between third and second and onto the mound.

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“I wasn’t really thrilled about it,” Pinkerton said.

Pinkerton isn’t the only one not really thrilled. Junior Dena Petersen has shared the role of starting pitcher. But she’s the team’s second baseman. The Western pitching mound has become something of a hot potato.

“The big thing before games is who’s going to pitch,” Harless said. “They always say, ‘It’s your turn to pitch,’ ‘No, it’s your turn.’ They’d both rather play infield.”

So there they are. Forced onto the mound against their wills. They don’t even take pitching lessons, something practically unheard of among starting pitchers in Orange County.

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Pinkerton took lessons once upon a time, when she was 10 years old. But she quit. Remember, she didn’t like pitching. She liked being a shortstop.

But before you give to the “Buy Ivy Pinkerton pitching lessons” fund, consider Western’s first league game against Valencia.

Petersen started that game but gave up some early walks, and Pinkerton relieved her in the second.

“I felt confident in that game,” Pinkerton said. “I wasn’t intimidated by her.”

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The her is M.G., Michele Granger, otherwise known as the best pitcher in Orange County. Granger threw a three-hitter against Western.

Pinkerton allowed only one hit. And Western won.

Big mistake. It meant she wasn’t going to play shortstop very much.

Maybe for seven years, the ghost of the pitcher Pinkerton almost started to be at age 10 has been hiding in a shortstop’s body.

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“It’s come naturally to me,” she said. “The ball has a natural rotation.”

Western beat a Granger-less Valencia once more and won the Orange League title. Pinkerton finished the season with a 5-1 record and a 2-hitter against Brea-Olinda, in which she struck out 10 batters.

“I started throwing harder,” Pinkerton said.

It was a nice way to warm up for the playoffs. In the first-round game, against Garden Grove, Pinkerton threw a perfect game.

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“I didn’t even realize what I was doing,” Pinkerton said. “I was just worried about them scoring.”

She didn’t have to be. As a reward--actually, the result of a muscle strain--Pinkerton played shortstop in Western’s second-round victory over Hawthorne. Petersen (5-4) pitched, giving up five hits.

But in today’s 3 p.m. game against fourth-seeded Charter Oak (24-3), Pinkerton will be back on the mound.

“I like the challenge,” she said. “I’ve just faced the fact that I can help the team more there.”

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But, perfect games or no, she’d still rather play shortstop.

In other 3-A quarterfinal games:

Valencia (22-6) at Buena Park (15-13): Granger has pitched a perfect game and a one-hitter in the playoffs. Buena Park, with pitcher Shannon Akau, has been one of the playoff surprises.

Kennedy (22-5) at Covina (18-3): Kennedy freshman Cheryl Longeway pitched a one-hitter for the top-seeded team against Sunny Hills. Covina won the Valle Vista League champion behind pitcher Mary Letourneau (18-2).

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In the 2-A quarterfinals:

La Serna (20-2-1) at Woodbridge (21-6): Tiffany Boyd (20-4) still has yet to give up an earned run for the top-seeded Warriors, who play host to the Whitmont League champions.

Mission Viejo (20-7) at Arroyo (20-0-1): Mission Viejo’s Jenny Heydt had a no-hitter in the second round against Palm Springs. Arroyo is the Mission Valley League champion.

Santa Fe (15-4) at Laguna Hills (18-9): The Hawks are led by Margo Melendrez (17-8), who pitched a no-hitter in the second round and had a three-run home run. Santa Fe finished second in the Whitmont League.

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San Clemente (21-6) at Corona (21-4): Sophomore pitcher Tara Roush gave up just one hit in San Clemente’s last outing. Corona is the Ivy League champion.


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