Prep softball: Taylorsville pitcher Jaycie LeBaron diamond in the rough
From the looks of it, you wouldn't know this season marks Taylorsville's Jaycie LeBaron first bout as a starting pitcher. Coming into the week, she had eight wins and an average allowance of just seven hits against in-state competition.
Her rÃ©sumÃ© reads more like a seasoned veteran than a freshman unfamiliar with the spotlight.
The squash-sized black-and-blue bruise on her right hip, though, tells the rest of the story.
"I basically taught myself how to pitch," LeBaron said. "And I was doing it all wrong."
On every pitch, her hips would swing to meet her speeding elbow a subtle collision that, over time, resulted in a nasty bruise and plenty of pain.
The pain was subtle at first, but grew with the size of the bruise.
"During those early games, she was just playing through it," assistant coach Erin James said. "We worked really hard with her to make her own adjustments. She still struggles a bit with walks, but it's coming together."
It more than beats the alternative.
During the preseason, James and coach Rich Kaelin looked at the roster and saw a solid defense, deep hitting squad and a team stacked with young talent.
What they didn't see was a pitcher.
"We really didn't have a pitcher who claimed to be one," James said. "We thought, 'Wow, it's a good thing we can hit.'"
LeBaron, who was previously sidelined with a broken foot, didn't come on the scene until the last day of open gym. It was there that LeBaron, a fourth- and fifth-string pitcher on her summer league team, spent a bit of time pitching to team captain and first baseman Cami Mathews.
Mathews liked what she saw and, recognizing there was a huge vacancy left to fill, she ran to tell her coaches about the potential fit.
"Coach [Rich] Kaelin and I met with her and talked over a few things," James said. "And that is how we got our pitcher."
Though untested, her potential was immediately apparent.
As she steadied her follow-through, the strength of her inside fastball emerged.
"I can also do some change-ups that are pretty sweet," LeBaron said. "When I'm on an 'on' day, it's pretty wild."
Just ask Copper Hills. With something to prove against many of her former summer league teammates, LeBaron let loose, allowing only four hits en route to a 12-2 victory over the Grizzlies on March 29.
"I was never really given the chance to show what I could do before," LeBaron said. "I wanted to show them that I was a starter now."
Still, LeBaron acknowledges that there is work to do.
"I want to learn how to throw a drop ball and I need to get my speed up," she said.
But for now, she's focused on one game at a time and leading the Warriors.
"It's exciting to see the progress that she's made," James said. "And she's got a whole team of talented players behind her."
Warriors found their girl
Taylorsville freshman Jaycie LeBaron found her spot on the mound as a self-taught pitcher.
Assistant coach Erin James has helped LeBaron turn a swaying stance, which resulted in a nasty bruise on her right hip, into a deadly fastball and change-up.