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FISHER — Sydney Eichelberger realized last season that good hitters can exist pretty much anywhere in a lineup. Helping pitch Fisher into its first-ever state tournament appearance as a freshman was an eye-opening lesson for the right-hander, who went 14-2 with a 2.68 ERA, 66 strikeouts and 37 walks in 120 innings during the 2016 season while splitting time with Megan McCoy.
But with McCoy having graduated, Eichelberger is the unquestioned ace for the Bunnies (10-8) this season after Fisher placed fourth in state a year ago.
“She’s really improved her velocity,” Fisher coach Ken Ingold said. “She’s worked really hard with it over the summer. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in her now that we’ve had a couple games where the weather has been a little bit warmer in April. She’s able to grip and spin the ball a little bit better. As the weather continues warming up, she’s going to get better and better.”
Facing the likes of Tuscola, Unity, Maroa-Forsyth and Rantoul this year has already tested Eichelberger and the Bunnies.
“I just don’t think you get any better without playing good teams,” Ingold said. “Sydney realizes that night in and night out, she’s facing some really good hitters. She’s really held up well.”
Poise and a calm demeanor were key points concerning Eichelberger during her first season at Fisher last spring. Those two attributes are still a constant with Eichelberger — and why her coach isn’t worried about a sophomore slump.
“She never gets rattled,” Ingold said. “If she does make a mistake or even throws a good pitch and an opponent gets a base hit, it doesn’t bother her. She just goes right after the next hitter. That’s the mentality you’ve got to have as a pitcher.”
She has received praise from other coaches as well, like LeRoy coach Doug Hageman, whose Panthers squad took down the Bunnies in a 3-0 pitcher’s duel on Friday.
“Eichelberger is throwing a lot harder than she did last year,” Hageman said. “You can tell she’s worked hard and that added velocity with that spin, she does a great job. Being on that team last year and having that success and handling that has showed this year.”