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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Elmore County’s Aubrey Allen throws a pitch against Rehobeth.

When pitcher Aubrey Allen transferred from New Life Christian, the Elmore County softball team knew it was getting some extra talent for its pitching rotation. Allen said she was not sure how well she would do in her first few games but after a month of the season, she has proven herself in the circle.

“Coming from a small private school, there wasn’t that same competition I have now,” Allen said. “I was a little nervous at first but I work very hard to be the best I can be so it has been fun to just get out there and start pitching.”

Elmore County already had its ace returning as Maci Curlee was set to take another step forward. Curlee and Allen planned to continue splitting the innings moving forward and the Panthers hope that competition can make both pitchers better at the end of the season.

“Having Aubrey here has given us a little bit of depth on the staff,” ECHS coach Mark Segrest said. “That allows Maci to not have to pitch every game and it pushes her to work harder and be a little better. They have both responded really well.”

Curlee has continued to be consistent, posting a sub-3.000 ERA in her first 38 innings but it did not take Allen long to make her impact. 

Allen said she got an immediate confidence booster in the season opener against Wetumpka. In her first three innings in the circle, she struck out five and allowed just one baserunner against the No. 6 team in Class 6A.

She rode that momentum into a pair of wins the next day at Tallassee’s Purple and Gold Tournament on the opening weekend. 

“She’s really exceeded expectations,” Segrest said. “I knew she had some talent but one of the biggest things for me to see as a coach was her mental intensity. She is a true competitor. She has really good spin, good velocity and good command so I have been pleased to see her development.”

Despite Allen’s performance in the first game against Wetumpka, the Panthers could not walk away with a victory. Elmore County got another chance at its county rival last Tuesday and Allen was back in the circle, this time from the start.

Allen pitched her first complete game, allowing just one earned run in nine innings while striking out a season-high 15 batters. Her performance was enough to lead the Panthers to a 4-3, extra-innings victory.

“I started off great and felt really good,” Allen said. “Toward the middle, I got a little tired but I pushed through. They got ahead for a second but we came back so I was just happy we could win.”

The 15-strikeout performance topped her previous high which Allen set against Class 5A No. 6 Rehobeth during the Wetumpka tournament last weekend. Allen was called upon to go head-to-head with Rehobeth pitcher Stephanie Schoonover, a Kentucky signee. 

“I love going up against players that are going to play (Division I) ball,” Allen said. “That makes me work harder. I want to be the best I can so I love to be challenged by great players like that.”

Allen allowed just three hits over five innings while striking out 11, leading Elmore County to a 2-0 win.

“I talked to the whole team but specifically Aubrey,” Segrest said. “I told her to just pitch her game and not think about it too much but also to take this as a challenge. That’s a high-level SEC pitcher and (Allen) stepped up and had an outstanding game. She went pitch for pitch with Schoonover.”

During that victory, Allen allowed zero free passes. In her first 47 innings pitched, Allen walked 10 and had just four hit by pitch while striking out 75 hitters.

“One of the most important things for a successful pitcher is command,” Segrest said. “When you look at her, she’s not going to be a (strikeout) pitcher but she has command. That strikeout-to-walk ratio shows that. When she needs to throw a strike, she can throw a strike.” 

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.