TERRE HAUTE —
After shoulder surgery in 2011, Stephanie Fougerousse hung up the softball cleats, gave up significant scholarship money to play for Tennessee State and went to school closer to home at Indiana State.
Fougerousse, who led Linton High School to consecutive Class 2A runner-up finishes, is back in the pitching circle. She walked on for Indiana State and she’s leading the Sycamores in innings pitched (35) and earned-run average (4.00) so far this season.
“My freshman year, that shoulder was still hurting. The next year, it really wasn’t hurting any more. This year, I heard a lot of good things about the new coach, coach [Shane] Bouman, and just decided I’d give it a shot,” Fougerousse said.
Bouman, hoping to ignite a resurgence for Sycamore softball, is in his second year with the program. His pitching résumé is full of ASA accomplishments and he turned the University of Iowa pitching staff into one of the nation’s best a few years ago.
He and pitching coach Amanda Zust, one of the U. of Iowa’s all-time greats, have helped Fougerousse make some adjustments into Division I softball. Fougerousse, who has three years of eligibility remaining, is 3-2 as she shares time in the circle with sophomore Ashli Scott, a former North Central standout, and freshman Halle Humphrey.
Bouman is just looking to replace the production he got from senior Lindsay Beisser in 2012 as ISU finished a solid fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference in ERA with a team mark of 2.91.
“She’s one of our three pitchers right now competing for time,” Bouman said of Fougerousse. “We’re at a point where we’re looking for people that can step up and make a difference. She’s one of them that’s in the mix.
“Like everybody, it’s a matter of ‘Can you play at this level? Can you compete at this level? Can you mentally and physically put yourself in a position to succeed?’ We feel like we’re trying to give her all those things and now it’s going to be up to her: does she really want to work on them and be at this level?”
Fougerousse is enjoying the chance to re-invent herself as a pitcher.
“It’s gone really well,” she said. “I made a lot of changes from fall. In high school, I was mainly a rise-ball pitcher. Coach Bouman and coach Zust have got me where I’m mainly throwing drop balls now. I throw a lot harder than I did in high school. They changed my wind-up.”
The former Miner can be “intimidating” out there, former high school rival Megan Stone said. Stone, who also starred at North Central with Scott, is off to a hot start with a team-high .448 average and two home runs through 10 games.
Stone hit the game-winning homer against Tennessee State last weekend as Fougerousse tossed eight innings to improve to 3-2.
“She’s given us confidence, she’s given us smiles, everything you could ever ask for in a pitcher,” Stone said. “She’s got the confidence on the mound. She has a great presence about herself.”
The smiles are part of the positive attitude Bouman and his staff have tried to establish as they rebuild the program.
That’s part of the reason Fougerousse was attracted to joining the team.
“I think he’s doing some good things. Brought in a lot of new freshmen. He’s recruiting people from all across the country. I just saw that [ISU’s players] were excited and it made me a little bit more motivated to try it out,” Fougerousse said.
Fougerousse tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief against Big 12 opponent Iowa State, but it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns.
“Last weekend, a home run got hit off me. I haven’t felt that heart drop of watching the ball go over the fence and then have to get back to pitching in years,” Fougerousse said when asked about rust.
Kansas beat her up for six runs on seven hits and Auburn (10-1) scored six runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
“The game’s a little different. When you compete against the elite players in the country, it’s a little different than pitching at Linton High School,” Bouman said. “We just want her to make quality pitches. When do you throw strikes? When do you not throw strikes? That’s all stuff she’s learning. And you’ve got to learn fast. That’s the reality. It’s now or never for a lot of these kids. We’re trying to work them all into a position so things go well, fast.”
“We’re recruiting a number of girls to be here next year and we’re hoping one of these girls can step up this year and lead us this year is really what we’re looking for,” Bouman continued.
While the Sycamores are off to a hot start at the plate, pitching is paramount in softball.
“When you’ve got a lot of pitchers, you don’t have one great one,” Bouman said. “We’d really like one of these to be great in a short time frame. We feel like they’ve all got the talent; it’s just a matter of do they want to go there?”