Talented pitcher helps Rebels hang with state’s best

The distance between the pitching rubber and home plate on a softball field is 43 feet.

Amber Linton’s pitching motion can swallow up a good chunk of that distance.

At 6 feet tall, the Franklin resident and Roncalli sophomore has tailored her delivery to take advantage of her length and shorten up the distance that her throws have to travel to reach the catcher.

“That’s what colleges said got their attention,” Linton said. “I work hard on driving out far so that (my release) is closer, and it does help speed-wise.”

Pitchers who throw as hard as Linton does — she regularly tops out around 61 or 62 mph during games — are hard enough to hit from 40 feet away. From 35 feet or so, making contact is that much more difficult.

“I do think it throws (hitters) off a split second,” Roncalli coach David Lauck said, “which in softball, that’s a lot.”

Linton, who started receiving college attention around the age of 12 and already is committed to play at the University of Tennessee, made an immediate impact last season with the Rebels. She posted a 10-4 record and a 1.72 earned-run average, striking out 104 and walking just 19 in 102 innings pitched. Even more pleasantly surprising to Lauck was Linton’s production at the plate — she batted a team-best .444 with 21 runs batted in.

So far this season, Linton is 2-1 with a 0.75 ERA and she’s struck out 36 and walked just seven in 28 innings. Aside from a 4-1 loss at current state No. 1 Center Grove last month, she hasn’t been scored upon.

The lone potential downside of having such a talented player come in is that it could cause problems with veteran teammates. But Lauck said that senior Jordan Jenkins, who had been the Rebels’ No. 1 hurler as a freshman and a sophomore, happily embraced Linton and accepted her role as what the coach termed the “1A.”

Both pitchers warm up before each game and are ready to come in at any time; whichever one isn’t in the circle plays first base.

“She’s a really great pitcher, and she’s always had my back and supported me,” Linton said of Jenkins.

“Jordan wants to win,” Lauck added, “and she was willing to do whatever it took for us to be in the best position to be successful.”

Linton certainly gives the Rebels a chance to succeed every time out with her combination of height, speed, spin and placement — not to mention a strong mindset that allows her to put mistakes behind her quickly.

“There’s a lot of good softball in this area,” Lauck said, “and having her in the circle definitely puts us in a position to beat anybody.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.