Monessen grad Dana Vatakis leads manner as ace of Robert Morris softball pitching workers

Robert Morris fourth-year softball coach Jexx Varner doesn’t imagine within the time-honored custom of getting one beginning pitcher carry the load for a whole season. He prefers to make use of an MLB-style workers of a number of pitchers.

To wit: The Colonials (16-6 within the Horizon League, 27-16 total) have 5 pitchers who’ve thrown not less than 35 innings this season, and three of these hurlers have made not less than 11 begins.

And, as with a major-league workers, there may be an ace. Varner’s is senior Dana Vatakis.

Getting into the week, Vatakis, a Monessen grad, was 7-6 with a 4.15 ERA (5-3, 2.65 within the Horizon League) and 86 strikeouts in a team-high 89 innings. Her common of practically one strikeout per inning is tops in her time with the Colonials.

“She’s nonetheless our ace,” Varner stated. “That’s to not say I don’t imagine in the remainder of our pitching workers. … Our 4 different pitchers are nice and might deal with their hundreds, and it simply will assist when Dana, in a while within the 12 months, hasn’t thrown as a lot and she or he’s not gassed.

“That’s what’s nice about our workers, and that’s what’s nice about Dana is she has embraced this position inside the workers.”

Vatakis solidified her place by the event of her pitch repertoire and a extra aggressive mindset. Content material to depend on two pitches her first couple of seasons, she refined her backdoor curveball and her drop ball.

They have been pitches she all the time had, she stated, however she not often threw them in sport conditions.

Up to now, she was content material to pitch to contact and get nearly all of her outs by way of floor balls. Now, as a result of she has a extra diversified arsenal, she assaults hitters extra steadily.

“Now I’ve extra I can belief in all of my totally different pitches,” she stated. “With the ability to combine extra and use totally different pitches has helped me preserve individuals off steadiness. That results in extra strikeouts.”

Varner added that Vatakis additionally has grow to be simpler at working greater within the strike zone. Having hitters continually altering eye ranges, Varner stated, offers a pitcher a bonus. In Vatakis’ case, as a substitute of sitting on her low, floor ball-inducing choices, hitters should respect her willingness to go upstairs.

The mixture of trusting extra pitches and the willingness to vary places have given Vatakis extra confidence within the circle.

“I believe she embraces the problem of, I would like any individual to attempt to put the ball in play in opposition to me,” Varner stated. “She’s daring them to, and she or he’s making some high quality pitches. And when she’s bought this aggressive mentality, it results in strikeouts.”

Wiser and extra polished, Vatakis has emerged as a group chief. She’s not one to “rah-rah” and pump up her teammates with fire-and-brimstone exhortations. Her M.O. is staying on a fair keel.

“I’d say I’m extra of a relaxing chief than the rest,” Vatakis stated.

Varner calls it “swagger.”

Removed from being cocky, Vatakis exudes a self-assuredness that permeates the dugout.

“You recognize watching her within the circle and watching her do her work within the bullpen and so forth that, we’ve bought this,” he stated. “We’ve bought this sport. We will win this sport. That perception and belief that she has radiates to everyone else on the group.”

That perception contains profitable the Horizon League Event and advancing to the NCAAs.

The Colonials had a strong season of their league debut in 2021, ending fourth within the HL. Now they’re able to take the subsequent step.

“I’ve lots of confidence in our group, and I believe we are able to win it,” Vatakis stated. “We’ve simply gotten higher and gotten extra comfy within the Horizon League and sort of made our mark. Now I positively suppose we’re able to profitable all of it.”

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Evaluate workers author. You’ll be able to contact Chuck by electronic mail at ccurti@triblive.com or by way of Twitter .

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