MORGANTOWN — University senior Hayden Powroznik has grown accustomed to being the Hawks’ main weapon in the pitching game, leading her for four straight seasons. Headed into her final year, she was prepared to take the reins again — now she has some welcomed relief.
Powroznik still sees her fair share of time in the circle, but freshman Autumn Stemple quite the mark early in her high school career, tallying 40 strikeouts with just seven walks in 21 innings this season. University coach Mindy Parks noted the pitching as some of the best she’s seen in her six years with the program.
“She’s been a big factor for us. I think she’s very confident, and I think she knows she has the pitching dominance. She knows when she works her different pitches, and she sees that success, she knows that’s pretty big. I haven’t had that since my first year coaching,” she said.
The duo has led the Hawks (2-3) to a pair of early season victories, and their early performances has hopes high in the UHS dugout. Parks attributes their success to having the versatility they bring to the lineup.
“They’re two different types of players; Hayden works the plate more, and Autumn has the speed and dominance. They each have several pitches that throw in different dynamics for our team,” Parks said.
The Hawks will look to use the pair’s differing skill sets to keep opposing batters on their toes and unsure of what to expect, and also open up Powroznik to play other positions across the diamond.
“I think having our duo of one being speed and one being movement will greatly throw off rivals and those who have adjusted to my pitching style,” Powroznik said. “Knowing I can rely on her in the circle also allows me to play other positions I love, while making our defense stronger.”
Of course, the effects the pair have on the team’s success don’t stop with slowing opponents at the plate. The relationship they’ve formed has helped both grow as players to the benefit of the entire program.
“Autumn’s taken a lot of the pressure off Hayden, and she seems more relaxed — I see her having fun and working on other parts of her game. She wants to be in the circle, so it’s also making her work a little bit harder. She’ll do whatever it takes to make the team succeed,” Parks said.
Meanwhile, Powroznik provides experience and mentorship as a senior leader, and is always ready to come in and handle business at pitcher for her team — a luxury which has helped take pressure off Stemple and allow her to adjust to varsity softball.
“I think I’ve helped her grow in that adjustment from middle school to high school,” she said. “I’ve grown up with her all my life, and we’re also distant relatives. I think having that relationship has allowed her to grow more comfortable in the circle.”