PREP SOFTBALL

Noll's Hartzell saves her best for last in her senior softball season

2012-04-27T19:00:00Z 2012-08-28T23:39:26Z Noll's Hartzell saves her best for last in her senior softball seasonBy Steve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com

It's happened for decades to a great number of region softball pitchers: fantastic seasons as a freshman, sophomore and junior are followed by a sub-par campaign as a senior.

Typical worries about prom, college, graduation and graduation parties have blurred the vision of many area softball aces through the years.

Bishop Noll senior Vanessa Hartzell, so far, cannot be put on that list.

"Vanessa is pitching great right now," Noll coach Ralph Laramie said. "She hasn't dropped off this year because her No. 1 concentration is on the game. It's the only sport she plays. It means a lot to her."

Against Whiting on April 19, Hartzell fanned 18 Oilers and was one error from recording a perfect game.

Last year in May, Hartzell struck out all 21 North Newton batters to complete a perfect game. That is a school record for number of Ks in a game.

Laramie said her three no-hitters are also a school record. She's also thrown two one-hitters this spring.

Beyond the love of the game there is another thing that's driving Hartzell. She is in fourth gear and her foot is to the floor because of what happened last May 28.

Hanover Central scored three runs in the sixth inning of the sectional championship game to pull off the upset 4-3.

"That's really been my focus, my motivation," Hartzell said. "It was one game. We were so close. My hard work has carried me through."

Hartzell has signed to pitch for Aurora College next school year. She plans to major in biology.

Hartzell is just more than 100 strikeouts away from 1,000 for her career. That is the one individual goal the ultimate team player is shooting for, and her Warriors are better when she's striking out the sides.

Like most prep pitchers in Indiana, the move from 40 feet to 43 feet took an adjustment. Her freshman season the pitching distance was 40 feet, which is much friendlier for throwers.

But an extreme work ethic has Hartzell throwing harder this spring than any other, Laramie said. Her added strength has helped her fastball, screw ball, curve, rise and change-up.

Her "junk" now has some speed behind it, too.

"I thought her best year so far was her freshman year," Laramie said. "But she's right there this year. So far anyway. She's pitching great for us."

Thursday's game against Wheeler was cancelled due to poor conditions. Winning the Greater South Shore Conference is big for the Warriors. That's goal No. 1.

Then, it's for Hartzell to win her first sectional championship. That's goal Nos. 1 and 2.

"We're coming together right now," Hartzell said. "I think we're good enough to make a run at state. We know now to never underestimate anyone. If we could win a sectional and make a run that would be the perfect ending to my career.

"That's what keeps me going."

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