BEVERLY - When Victoria Mimken, or "Tori" as many of her Fort Frye teammates and classmates address her, winds and delivers a pitch homeward to catcher Nicole Miller, the opposing batter had better be ready to swing the bat.
Reason being, the Lady Cadet softball hurler (12-1 with a 0.96 ERA) is always around the plate and in the strike zone. That's right, always.
In 78 innings of work so far this season, the right-handed-throwing Mimken has struck out 130 hitters and issued two free passes.
PAM BROOKER Special to The Times
Fort Frye softball hurler Victoria “Tori” Mimken prepares to pitch to a Caldwell batter during a PVC contest in Beverly last week. Mimken is considered to be one of the best pitchers in Ohio.
In fact, until Fort Frye's ninth game against visiting Caldwell last Thursday, its pitching staff as a whole had not walked anyone.
"I just tell our pitchers to throw strikes and not walk anybody," said veteran FFHS skipper Barb Sleek. "Make the hitters earn their way on base."
And, of course, the only way a batter is going to reach base on Mimken is by putting the ball in play - and that's a lot easier said than done. The Fort Frye junior is very stingy when it comes to allowing basehits.
"She's what you would probably call a power pitcher," said Sleek of her protege. "And she has gained a few miles per hour on her fastball this season."
A year ago as a sophomore, Mimken fanned 270 and walked 17 in 159 innings of work. Calculated further, that's an average of 1.76 strikeouts per inning and one free pass every 9.4 frames.
With Mimken toeing the rubber, Fort Frye blanked 15 opponents, and compiled a 22-5 overall record, which included a regional "Sweet 16" appearance, in 2011.
"I really believe that 70 percent of the game is pitching," Sleek said.
After the season, Mimken was honored as an All-Ohio selection.
So far this spring, Mimken has been one of the principal reasons why Fort Frye has gotten off to a 12-2 overall start. The Lady Cadets are 11-2 in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) and 10-0 in the Pioneer Valley Conference (PVC).
"She mixes up and changes speeds on her pitches pretty well," Sleek said. "She has movement on her fastball, and she's been working on her curveball.
"Nicole (Miller) calls all her pitches, and she does a nice job of doing that."
Miller, a senior catcher, is an All-Ohio honoree in her own right. A letterwinner since she was a freshman, she hit .529 with six home runs in 2011.
Mimken, too, is pretty good with the stick. Often, she helps her own cause with a timely hit or two. This season, she's batting cleanup and hitting .400, Sleek said. "She hits the ball hard," the Fort Fyre coach added, and has really given us a spark at the plate."
As a power pitcher, Mimken is usually good for double digits in strikeouts almost every time she takes the hill. That means, of course, that the remaining outs have to be recorded from behind her, and Fort Frye's defense is for the most part rock solid.
Fielding the groundballs in the infield have been Lexi Huck at first, Devan Vaughn - a four-year starter - at second, Morgan Liedtke at short, and Michelle Adkins at the hot corner at third.
Hali Lemasters has occasionally been filling in at short.
Roaming the outfield have been Kyla Slack in left, Sammi Hanson in center, and Courtney Hendershot in right. Natalie Smith is the DP. With a supporting lineup like that and Mimken throwing strikes, Fort Frye has been turning a lot of heads of late. Another 20-win Lady Cadet spring on the diamond doesn't really seem so farfetched - but of course there's still a lot of season remaining. "We just try to hold teams to as few runs as possible, and score more than them," said Sleek after FFHS defeated Caldwell 9-2. "Hopefully, we come out on top."
So far, with Mimken's impeccable control as a hurler, the Fort Frye softball team has been in control on the diamond - and as a result on top.