Published DateGILFORD — At the top of the sixth inning of Gilford High School's 2-1 win over Farmington on Friday night, Sydney Strout became only the second Eagle softball pitcher to record 500 career strikeouts. While she and her team took a moment to celebrate the event, she said yesterday that her 500th K is only a milestone, a way point on the route to yet greater heights.
The only other pitcher in Gilford history to exceed 500 strikeouts was Alyssa Crowell, Class of 2005, who struck out 619 opposing batters. Strout knows well whose heels she's chasing, as she first met Crowell about ten years ago at a softball clinic. Strout, then a second-grader, idolized the star pitcher, who became Strout's babysitter and pitching coach. "Alyssa Crowell was my role model. She's the one that taught me how to pitch, I always wanted to be like her," said Strout.
Strout wears number 13 on her jersey – the same worn by Crowell – and wants to know how it feels to hold the school's strikeout record. In Strout's view, breaking Crowell's record would be the best tribute to her hero. She's got a chance to do it, too.
Strout became the team's starting pitcher as a freshman, recording 141 strikeouts her first year, 117 as a sophomore and 175 last year. With ten games remaining on the schedule, Strout would have to average more than 11 strikeouts per game to eclipse Crowell's record in the regular season. She has proven the ability to do so, such as her 13 punch-outs in Friday's game against Farmington.
As a lefty with a curveball, knuckle-change, screwball, and a fastball she delivers with both speed and precision, Strout has developed an intimidating variety of weapons she can use to send batters back to the dugout. She's got a secret weapon, though, and that's her throwing partner sitting behind the plate.
There's few relationships in sports as important as that between a catcher and a pitcher, and in Gilford's case the bond between Strout and catcher Paige Laliberte is ten years strong – the two have been playing together practically since they each picked up the sport. Strout said she rarely shakes off Laliberte's calls, and that nearly every one of her career strikeouts has Laliberte's signature on it. Most of the time, Laliberte signals which pitch she wants, Strout just follows orders and tries to hit her catcher's glove. "In the end, it's her who calls all the strikeouts. I have trust that she's calling the right pitch."
Strout has committed to attending Bridgewater State University, where she will pitch, play outfield and study marketing. She picked a Division III school so that she could balance athletics with academics and a social life. Strout is considering a career in pharmaceutical sales, though she might also try to get a job with her favorite professional team, the Boston Bruins.
The Gilford High record books already prominently feature Strout's name. Although overshadowed sometimes by her performance on the mound, she's a prolific batter, holding the school record for a season batting average of .557. She holds the record for most consecutive strikeouts – she threw ten in a row last year – and the 18 Ks she picked up against Inter-Lakes last season also set a school record for most strikeouts in a game. She also has the honor, earned just last week, of pitching in coach Joan Forge's 1,000th career varsity win. Still, Strout would like to add a few feathers to her cap before the season's over.
Although she's tossed two no-hitters, Strout is still seeking her first perfect game. She relishes her first two semifinal appearances and would love to take her deep into another post-season run. "That would be amazing," she said. Yet, she's aware that luck can break for both good and bad, and so she's focused on one over-riding goal for this spring, "Have a successful season and be the best team we can be. There are some situations we can't control." One thing she's learned she can control, though, is her effort and work. The milestone she reached last week is validating, she said, and means she's on the right track. "I look at it as my hard work has paid off. If you work hard at something, you'll get something good out of it."