When asked what the key is to being a successful pitcher, Hammond junior Stephanie Speierman delivers an answer as fast as her overpowering fastball: "Loving it."
It's more than safe to say the two-time, first-team All-Metro standout loves pitching. Last year, Speierman led the Golden Bears to the program's first state championship, tossing a perfect game in the team's 4-0 win over North East-Cecil for the Class 2A championship at the University of Maryland. For the season, Speierman went 23-1 with a 0.20 ERA, setting a state record with 426 strikeouts. Speierman, who plays for the Maryland Stars 18-and-under club team, has been playing softball for eight years and has already made an oral commitment to play at Michigan.
After going 23-1 last year, the team lost its season opener last week at C. Milton Wright. What can you take from the loss? It was definitely tough and I think it surprised everyone a little bit. But it will be good ... We've been saying all along, we have a target on our back now and everyone is going to be gunning for us. So I think that kind of puts it in better perspective. I'm not sure everybody believed that was going to be the case and the way [C. Milton Wright] came out and the way they reacted after beating us proved that it was true.
Is there pressure trying to top what the team accomplished last year? You can't really top that. It was just a great season all around as far as the players and what we ended up doing. There's definitely a lot of pressure and maybe that loss took off some of the pressure. The one good thing about losing the first game, there's no chance of a perfect season this year, which is the only way we could have improved on last year.
What was it like throwing a perfect game to win a state title? That was really amazing. My parents and I were down the night before when [Chesapeake-AA pitcher] Lauren Gibson threw a no-hitter and we were like: "Oh, that's really great to be able to go out and do that in a state championship game." And then I came out the next afternoon and threw a perfect game. It was just really cool being out there and just being a part of the game in general was really neat. The atmosphere on the field is cool, especially being in that stadium because you are the only teams that get to play there that year.
How did you feel going into the last inning? I was trying not to think about the fact that I had a perfect game going. I just tried to focus on getting the outs and then once I was down to that last batter and I had two strikes on her I was like: "Oh my God, don't mess up." And I knew she was a good hitter, which made it even harder, but it ended up fine.
What do you enjoy about softball? I like the sport in general a lot. It's such a team sport and at the same time it's very individual. And I think with pitching, there's a lot to it. You have to know your fielders and ... do your homework and know the batters and the team you're playing, and where to pitch to everybody.
What impressed you most about the University of Michigan? I really liked the atmosphere. It's an interesting mix how Ann Arbor and the school have really grown into each other. It's so nice up there.