There is no herky-jerky motion, no distracting grunts and no scowl to distract batters.
Lori Spingola doesn’t need all that. Instead, what opposing batters see are the same complacent face and the same fluid motion pitch after pitch. Most of the time that combination yields a sound all too familiar to opposing batters – the pop of the ball smacking into the catcher’s mitt.
The Marist senior is on her way to earning her third AAAA Pitcher of the Year honor and is a big reason the War Eagles are hunting for their second straight state championship.
She struck out 45 batters in double-header wins over Woodland-Cartersville on Tuesday, Oct. 13, in the first round of the AAAA state playoffs. She fanned 22 batters in a 1-0 win in eight innings, then struck out a school-record 23 in nine innings in a 3-0 win.
“I will never see another one like her again,” Marist coach Mike Trapani said. “This is a once-in-a-career thing. Certainly, there’s not a fiercer competitor out there. You can see it, if she gives up a base hit, she gets one to two miles an hour faster. For a girl who throws that hard, she has phenomenal control.”
That control, along with her almost serene disposition on the mound, comes from years of practice and good advice. Spingola has been a pitcher in travel leagues since she was 8 years old. She has played the past two summers for the 18 Gold East Cobb Bullets.
“My pitching coaches taught me never to show emotion on the mound,” said Spingola, who has signed a scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina. “I’ve been taught to keep my composure, and I guess I’ve been able to do that. I guess I’ve done it so much that it just comes naturally now.”
Spingola has improved since her junior season and has a record of 20-1 with 337 strikeouts after the first round of the state playoffs.
Her control and a mix of five pitches oftentimes make her unhittable. She has thrown more than a half-dozen no hitters this season, including one in the region final and one in the first round of state. Although Spingola said she never throws a fastball, she has been clocked at 63 to 64 mph.
“I’ve learned what pitch to throw and when,” Spingola said. “I mostly try to mix up my pitches. I like to throw my rise, curve and screwball. I can throw a change-up and curve-drop sometimes. I never throw my fastball in travel ball or high school.”
Composure, control and a mix of pitches aren’t the only things Spingola has going for her. She also manages the game well on the mound. Trapani calls all her pitches, but the two often talk about ways to approach certain batters as the game progresses.
“She has an idea of how she wants to attack batters,” Trapani said.
For example, in the region championship series Spingola noticed Forsyth Central hitters were swinging at her first pitch. She told Trapani that she didn’t want to throw any more strikes on the first pitch.
“Part of (her success) is God-given ability,” Trapani said. “And part comes from years and years of hard work and practice. Her mechanics for a high school pitcher are nearly flawless. She doesn’t hurt herself by putting people on base.”
All the years of practice and all the innings of hard work have made Spingola appreciate her position even more. Burnout is not something she worries about.
“I really do love the sport. I like it so much I don’t think I’ll ever get burned out,” she said. “I like always having the ball, and I like the competition of going up against someone else.”
With the Final Eight AAAA state tournament coming up Oct. 23, Spingola would like to finish her high school career with another state title.
“I love just playing with my friends from school,” Spingola said. “I think we have a good chance to win.”