TROY — She relishes games like this: competitive, fiery contests against an outstanding opponent.
Even in defeat, Troy Athens pitcher Haley Zemmer offers a smile of appreciation.
“You love being part of these,” the junior said following a 5-4 loss to Troy May 8. “This is what’s fun. This is what makes the game so great.”
Zemmer was up to her usual tricks in the Wednesday afternoon doubleheader last week. From the circle, she limited the Colts’ offense.
At the plate, she was finding every way to get on base, like her intentional walk in the seventh inning or when she rounded them altogether with her second-inning home run.
A few defensive mistakes, as well as an inability to score with runners in position, doomed the Red Hawks on the day, as they dropped both games.
But those familiar with Athens this season, or more specifically Zemmer, know the Red Hawks are sure to challenge for a division and district crown as the regular season transitions to the playoffs.
“When you have that good pitcher, you’re going to do well,” Athens coach Dave Marr said of Zemmer. “All we need is some good defense and a couple runs to have a chance in any game we play.”
Zemmer — who was instrumental in the Red Hawks’ success last year, when the team rolled to 33 wins and its first district crown since 1997 — has been equally good in 2013, even as Athens moved to the Oakland Activities Association Red Division.
Zemmer has pitched every inning so far, posting a 15-7-2 record with a 1.29 ERA and 237 strikeouts.
This comes after 323 strikeouts and a 1.01 ERA as a sophomore.
“She’s faster this year, with more command,” Marr said. “Last year, she had a couple of good pitches. Now she has three really working, sometimes four. … She’s a huge advantage to have.”
Zemmer shrugs at the compliments and expectations. She said she puts enough pressure on herself but enjoys every ounce of it.
“I love the competition,” she added.
And, as the season moves on, it’s only going to get tougher.
Playing in the Red, Athens will have no sleepers as the schedule unfolds. And, as May 8 proved, the Red Hawks are in for quite the test when the district opens.
They’ll face Troy (17-3) in a 12:30 p.m. semifinal June 1 at Troy.
Athens eliminated the Colts in last year’s semifinal.
“We’re far from where we want to be, but we’re getting better every time out,” Zemmer said. “That’s the key right now. If we get better and better as we go, we’ll be just fine.”
“I feel like we’re a team that can compete with just about anyone,” Marr said. “It all comes down to the mistakes we make or don’t make. If we’re playing our game, and executing like we can and have a little luck, we’ll be in the mix to do some great things again.”
For more on the Troy/Athens doubleheader, see our website at www.candgnews.com.