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Girls’ Athlete of the Week : Pitching In to Keep Everything Under Control

Times Staff Writer

When Jennifer Brundage saw her first softball game more than seven years ago, it was the pitcher who caught her eye. She decided then, that was the position for her.

“It looked like fun, and I could be in control of the game,” said Brundage, 15, now a sophomore pitcher for Irvine High School’s softball team.

Brundage, The Times’ athlete of the week, has gotten better control of her breaking pitches with the help of her pitching coach, Ron LeFebvre. The Vaqueros have won their last seven consecutive games, and Brundage has pitched in six of them.

“They are working a lot better now,” she said of her curve, drop and rise pitches. “I can see them break better and I can tell by when I strike out more batters.”

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Brundage has struck out 151 in 108 innings and has given up only four earned runs for an earned-run average of 0.26.

She has raised her record to 8-5 and has helped Irvine turn its season around, going from 2-5 to 9-5. The Vaqueros’ first nine games were against ranked teams and four of their five losses were 1-0 tiebreakers in extra innings, Irvine Coach Phil Dunmeyer said.

Brundage has shut out Irvine’s last three opponents. She pitched a one-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 3-0 victory over Woodbridge Tuesday. In a doubleheader Thursday against Foothill, she pitched a no-hitter with six strikeouts in the first game’s 3-0 victory and pitched the final two outs to get the save in a 4-0 victory in the second game.

Her hitting has been impressive too, said Dunmeyer, who calls her “the finest high school hitter I have seen in 25 years.”

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She is hitting .435 and has struck out only twice in 46 at-bats, Dunmeyer said. Her on-base percentage is .569. She leads the team with seven RBIs and has scored twice as many runs (12) as any teammate. She has two home runs and two doubles.

“Her leadership for being a sophomore and assuming the role has just been incredible,” Dunmeyer said.

Her desire to be in charge carries over to basketball, where she played point guard on the junior varsity this season.

But basketball is more for recreation, Brundage said. “It’s fun. Softball is fun too, but I’m more serious about it. There are more opportunities to go to college through softball.”

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TOP PERFORMERS

Tanja Brix, University freshman, was fourth in the 3,200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational Saturday. Her time of 10 minutes 54.64 seconds is the 16th fastest in Orange County history.

Joy Burkholder, a freshman at Capistrano Valley, won the girls’ diving competition with 447.10 points--almost 13 more than her closest competitor--at the Capistrano Valley Invitational Saturday at Saddleback College.

Erin McKenney, Sunny Hills catcher, was named the most valuable offensive player in the 4-A division of the Canyon softball tournament. McKenney was five for 11, including a double and home run.

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Ivy Pinkerton, Western shortstop, was named the most valuable defensive player in the 4-A division of the Canyon softball tournament.

Jennifer Brundage

Irvine High School

Position: Pitcher

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Height, Weight, Class: 5-6, 140, Sophomore

Last Week: Brundage pitched a one-hitter and a no-hitter in shutouts over Woodbridge and Foothill.

Season: Brundage (8-5) has won her last six games. She has struck out 151 in 108 innings and has a 0.26 ERA. She has a .435 batting average and leads team in RBIs (seven) and runs scored (12).


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