By Craig Clary, firstname.lastname@example.org
5:09 PM EDT, June 13, 2012
It may have taken four years for Maude McCourry to be voted the top pitcher in Baltimore County, but it took her only one freshman season to take the softball team to the state finals.
McCourry, who pitched for three regional championship teams with the Vikings and hurled in a pair of state finals, was the catalyst for the Vikings' success, but it wasn't all she did in her sports career at Lansdowne.
During her senior year, McCourry also played volleyball in the fall and threw shot put for the indoor track team.
The three-sport athlete, who will play college softball at Northwest Florida State College, is the 2012 Arbutus Times Athlete of the Year.
McCourry's willingness to focus on other sports, when she clearly knew softball would be in her future, impressed softball coach Jamie Izdebski, who also coached her in volleyball.
"She concentrates on softball because that's her main thing, but the kid also wanted to reach out and do other things and have fun," Izdebski said.
Most of her fun came on the softball field, where the Vikings went 65-19 in her four years.
She finished her career with an earned run average under 1.00 per game and batted a team-high .460 with a team-leading 32 RBIs in her final season.
In 106 innings, she struck out 187 batters.
McCourry also dedicated herself to being a leader and a mentor to the younger players.
"That was the role she wanted to do," Izdebski said. "She said we didn't have a leader and she wanted to step up and be that person. She wanted to be the person to get everybody to smile and get everybody back up when things went bad."
With the help of senior catcher Sera Stull, the two provided laughs in the midst of some pivotal moments during the season.
"They really got in synch with one another," said Izdebski, who let Stull call the pitches. "They were smart and they knew the batters."
McCourry had five main pitches: fastball, change up, screwball, drop and rise, but she shelved the change-up after throwing one that was hit hard on a 3-2 pitch.
"She said, 'I'm not throwing that again'" Izdebski said.
That kind of discipline and understanding of her own ability is what made her the top pitcher in the county, and one Izdebski will remember for a long time.
"She's the best pitcher I've coached all the way around," said the coach, who just completed her 13th season.
Izdebski couldn't hold back the tears after she gave McCourry a big hug following the Vikings' loss to eventual state champion Liberty in the state semifinals.
"With Maude pitching for me, we were the first Lansdowne team to win regionals and she did it three times," Izdebski said.
Before McCouury arrived, the last Lansdowne team to go to the state tournament was the 1993 state champions.
At the sports banquet, McCourry's father, Skip, presented Izdebski with a blown-up canvas picture of Izdebski and McCourry together after they won the regional title over Loch Raven..
The softball coach got to know McCourry during the fall of her freshman year when she heard she had planned to play field hockey instead of softball.
Izdebski and some of the softball players convinced her to play volleyball instead, and after two years of junior varsity, she was a varsity mainstay.
McCourry earned the setter's job in her first season and was named the team's Unsung Hero.
"She stepped into it and did a nice job in that role," Izdebski said. "It wasn't as much pressure in volleyball as it was in softball."
There was no pressure on her to try out for the indoor track team, but she developed into a solid shot putter throwing in her first season as a senior.
"She had a really strong arm she used for pitching and those skills kind of transferred over to throwing the shotput," track coach Andrew Parker said.
Her best throw came in the Baltimore County championship meet when her toss of 26-feet, 11.75 inches placed her eighth.
"She was a great thrower for us," Parker said. "She placed ninth in the region and came close to qualifying for states."
Even though she knew softball was her main focus, she never worried about getting hurt throwing the shot put.
"She never really expressed that concern and she was always in the weight room doing her full routine," Parker said.
Whether she was lifting weights during the winter or lifting up her younger teammates during softball season, she didn't hesitate to do it with a smile.
But, when it was announced that she was the All-County First Team pitcher, it was her teammates who were beaming with grins.
"Her teammates were just as excited," Izdebski said.