Kimbri Herring handles pressure remarkably well for a sophomore. In fact, she wants nothing more than the ball in her hand with the game on the line.
That kind of poise is what makes Stansbury softball coach Bridget Clinton happy that Herring toes the rubber for the Stallions each game.
"She has the perfect mentality for a pitcher," Clinton said. "She wants the ball. It's what she loves to do. Pitchers give up hits and some don't respond well to that, but it's part of the game. You don't get too up or too down. Not much rattles her."
Herring boasts a 15-1 record with nine shutouts and 122 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched entering the week. She holds a 1.07 ERA in leading the Stallions to a share of the Region 11 championship with Bear River. Stansbury (24-2 overall) is scheduled to open the Class 3A playoffs Saturday against visiting Hurricane.
Herring, 16, credits her teammates for her success on the mound.
"It really does help to have a great defense behind me," she said. "I also love how our offense gets a lot of runs. I have a pretty good mentality and I don't get rattled easily, but I'm definitely not perfect. My team encourages me to do well. All I have to do is keep telling myself, 'I can do this.' "
Game-changing situations can be difficult to get through, especially for young pitchers. One hit can lead to another, and before long, mercy is the only thing that can stop the bleeding. Those moments are where Herring thrives.
She simply delivers when the team needs a key out to change momentum.
"Her best strength is her calmness," Clinton said. "Her presence on the mound and her demeanor makes everybody else that way as well. It carries on with her teammates. When you watch her play, you can tell she loves to pitch. She loves the pressure. She has done exceptionally well this season."
Herring recalls a game she started last season against rival Tooele. She struggled to make her pitches and allowed several runs while battling nerves. She turned that into a positive by working with her pitching coach in the offseason and playing for the Utah Attitude Gold travel team, gaining valuable experience.
As for her pitching mentality, Herring is confident she and her team will work together to get the job done.
"I love getting strikeouts, but if I can't, I look for pop-ups because that's what I get the most of," she said. "I know my team will get them. I know if it's a base hit, my team will cheer me on and encourage me. I know we'll get them out."
The Stallions have allowed only 39 runs all season (1.5 per game) entering the week behind Herring and other pitchers. Only Box Elder (27) and Salem Hills (33), both in 20 games, have allowed fewer runs in the entire state. Stansbury's only losses have come to Riverton and region rival Bear River.
"I have a feeling we're going to do really well [in the playoffs]," said Herring, who also has a home run to her credit this season. "All of us have improved in our own way. I'm excited to see how much more I can improve."