News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 8, 2010

Meet ISU softball's new ace: McCurdy hopes to pick up where Darcy Wood left off

TERRE HAUTE — Meagan McCurdy has been in and out of the limelight during her previous three seasons with the Indiana State softball team.

This season, the senior right-handed pitcher is seeking the glare of the spotlight as the Sycamores’ No. 1 pitcher. So ready in fact, she has already been named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week.

“I want some more, I’m getting greedy,” McCurdy laughed when asked her impressions of winning the MVC award. “We’re getting a taste of what we can become and what we can do.”

In a pair of tournaments to open this season, McCurdy had a 3-1 record with an 0.44 earned run average. In 312⁄3 innings, McCurdy had allowed just two earned runs with 33 strikeouts.

On Sunday, McCurdy notched two additional wins as a starter — a 1-0 shutout of Sacred Heart — and reliever on the opening day of a 10-games-in-6-days tournament in Orlando, Fla.

Casting a huge shadow during McCurdy’s three previous seasons has been Darcy Wood, who has rewritten the ISU softball record book.

Wood ranks No. 1 in innings pitched (932), strikeouts (1,036) and complete games (102). How extraordinary are those numbers? The next best stats in those categories are 657 innings, 362 strikeouts and 68 compete games.

Wood also ranks No. 2 in wins (47), tied for No. 2 in shutouts (23) and is No. 4 in earned run average (1.96).

Wood played professionally with the Philadelphia Force of the National Pro Fastpitch Softball League last summer. Currently, she and former battery mate Elle Fracker are assistant coaches at Drexel University.

“We lost a really good pitcher, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to do awesome this year,” McCurdy said during a break in practice at the ISU Arena last week. “I’m ready to be the leader of this team.”

McCurdy and Wood crossed paths prior to their time at ISU, both products of the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference — McCurdy at Indianapolis North Central, Wood at Center Grove.

“We faced each other [in high school]… but she was always the victorious one,” McCurdy grinned. “I faced her for two years, then she graduated.”

McCurdy pitched quite a bit as a freshman, she and Wood providing a 1-2 punch. In 841⁄3 innings, McCurdy had an impressive 10-3 record and 1.66 ERA.

As a sophomore, McCurdy assumed the No. 1 role as Wood was redshirted due to injury. McCurdy was 11-15 with a 2.87 ERA, striking out 140 batters (ranked sixth overall) in 156 innings.

As a junior, McCurdy was limited to 491⁄3 innings due to a six-week absence at the start of the season with a broken arm. McCurdy finished with a 2-6 record,  2.55 ERA and 42 strikeouts.

“Meagan came to us as bit of an unknown to everyone. We only knew she was a great kid and a great hitter in high school,” ISU coach Brenda Coldren said. “So what we really worked on that first year … some pitches, mostly with her drop ball.

“She has one of the best drop balls I’ve ever seen. The beautiful part is even though [opponents] have seen her for the past two or three years, they still have a hard time with the drop ball. That’s one of the pitches everyone doesn’t expect, everyone loves the rise ball. But her go-to pitch has really worked out well for us.

“Her progress has just been amazing. She’s one of the hardest working kids we’ve had, she’s come in and proved she can pitch at this level. She’s done a great job this year stepping in as a leader … a great role model for all our younger players.”

While McCurdy and Wood were competing for playing time at the same position, it was at all times a friendly rivalry.

“She and I were very close, we’d do a lot together,” McCurdy noted. “It was like the 1-2 punch, we’d always say. It’s sad she’s gone, but I have a lot of pitchers behind me this year.”

The three pitchers joining McCurdy this season include a sophomore and two freshmen.

Lindsey Beisser (Pendleton) is a sophomore returnee, while the freshmen are Sara Evans (New Palestine) and Kristen Felker (Defiance, Mo.)

“They bring the heat,” McCurdy described her three teammates. “We’re going to mix it up a lot this year, they throw different pitches. High, low, in and out, different speeds, movement. So I think we’re going to be really diverse this year.

“I’m more of a low-ball pitcher … drop ball is my expertise. Darcy was a rise ball and curve. This year, everyone has their own different pitch. We’ve got a girl that can throw an amazing screwball, rise ball, curve ball. Lindsey hits 67 [mph] on the clock.”

ISU’s home opener will be a doubleheader vs. Southeast Missouri at 3 p.m. March 17.

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    March 12, 2010