By Joshua Koch
HOUSTON – Madison Lindsey doesn’t sit back and think about just this season when viewing her softball career from afar.
Of course, the current version of the Kingwood Lady Mustangs in 2017 and their success on the field is in the forefront of her mind and the goals that come with being a part of that.
Along with that, the junior ace thinks about her career past the days of Kingwood High School and to her future days as a Baylor Bear.
“It’s just this goal that I’m working for to play college softball,” Lindsey said after guiding her team to a tournament championship last week in Bryan. “I just have to keep working for it. No matter what the ratio or whatever the book tells me I have to keep getting better to move forward to play at a D1 level.”
Off a Regional Finalist team from a year ago, Lindsey is now considered a savvy veteran on a team that replaces almost its entire starting infield and outfield.
“I just try to lead in any way I can,” Lindsey said. “Lead by example, help my team know that I’m here no matter what, I’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish anything we have to.”
Last year as a sophomore, Lindsey was firmly in the role of ace and workhorse for the Lady Mustangs registering 29 of Kingwood’s 34 wins in the circle, tossing 190 innings, while holding a 1.21 ERA by season’s end.
In 2017, Lindsey, who was voted a team captain before the beginning of the season, will be called upon to be the team’s go-to starter along with accepting a larger leadership role.
“I just knew that we lost a lot from last year, so I knew I was going to have to step up big to help our team,” Lindsey said. “We had a lot of people, a lot of freshmen that needed to step up and we’ve done that so far. So I thought I would just take the team on my back and try to help in any way I can.”
Looking at the numbers from a year ago, many would challenge to find a major area of improvement in Lindsey’s game on paper.
When asking the junior what needed improving off an impressive debut season in 2016, Lindsey said executing her pitches better in crucial moments.
Having that year of varsity experience under her belt, being a year older and wiser, Lindsey said has helped in both of those areas and coaches agree.
“As the pitch-caller it makes it really easy,” Kingwood Assistant Coach and Pitching Coach Beth Johnson said. “She sets people up pretty well up and down and east and west this year. Last year she relied a lot on her rise ball, this year she’s been able to mix speeds a little bit better, move east and west a little bit better, which has made her more effective than she was last year.”
Comparing Lindsey’s game from the circle from a year ago there are differences.
In 2016, as a sophomore Lindsey relied heavily on the rise ball making hitters eyes go north and south, Johnson said, but adding in and mixing in off speed pitches forcing east and west recognition making her more effective.
“She has a couple of more off speeds this year which has made it a lot easier,” she said. “We’re not relying on her to go north and south as much, she’s able to go east and west and change speeds east and west, which has made batters be off-balance.
“She can throw any of her off-speeds any count for a strike, which makes it really easy to call.”
The execution of her off speed pitches, paired with the rise ball, Lindsey is off to a hot start in 2017.
Guiding Kingwood to a perfect 6-0 mark at the 2017 Bryan-College Station Softball Classic, starting five of the six victories, including the championship game, Lindsey’s numbers are impressive – a perfect 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in 28 innings pitched, striking out 53 and walking 17 in her opening six appearances.
“In the moment I never realize how many I’m striking out until it starts adding up,” Lindsey, who had a 13 and 14-strikeout performance last weekend, said. “I just always say I need more and just keep trying to go for more every time.”
Comparing her numbers through the first seven games of this season to last, they are pretty close and better in some cases.
Lindsey’s strikeout ratio is up by a couple of points up from 2.95 to 3.11, ERA dropped by 0.81 from a 1.06 to a mere 0.25 and her number of innings is down from 34.1 to 28 through the first seven games.
“This year she knows mechanic wise and she’s more focused this year on the little things knowing she doesn’t have to be perfect because we have a young defense, because she knows we can score runs, because she knows there’s another pitcher behind her that can pick her up,” Johnson said. “She’s able to settle herself down this year which has shown her maturity from her sophomore year to her junior year.”
Lindsey showed off that ability during what could have turned into a disastrous sixth inning of the championship game on Saturday, working out of a bases-loaded jam recording the final out on her 130th pitch of the evening, eventually sealing the team’s seventh win of the season and tournament title.
Despite the lights out numbers to start the year, Lindsey said there are still areas to improve on.
Getting into a good number of 3-2 counts throughout a game by just missing by a couple of inches with pitches is frustrating, Lindsey said and knows she has to improve in that area.
“Just making my pitches, sometimes I miss and it’s not by a lot,” she said. “It’s the little bit. That little bit now won’t hurt me but in college it will. So I just have to keep getting better with my pitch execution and not missing by that much.”
Overall as a team, Kingwood is off to a perfect start coming off a season that nearly saw the program reach the UIL Softball State Tournament for the third time, first since 2013, falling short in a Regional Finals loss to Atascocita.
Despite having to replace so much off that team, Lindsey said she believes this team has the pieces to make another run at a State Championship.
“Yes, 100 percent it does,” she said. “We had a lot of people step up, we’ve had two freshmen do very well. Our leadoff is doing great. Everybody has acknowledged what we’ve lost and have stepped up to the game. Everyone is ready to play.”