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Knocked Back

Feb. 18, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– Just the other day, senior Kristen Adkins surprised me with her candor even though some of it came in wrapped in camouflage. If that seems a tough trick to pull off, read along . . .

We were at a media gathering for the softball team, where I kept accidentally stepping on the questions of others and saying odd things.

It’s not really important whose question Adkins was answering, or even what the question was when the back story alarm was triggered, but part of her comment – “Coming into last year, they knew what I had and honestly I just mentally wasn’t ready for the season last year,” – was interesting.

Now, a break in order cometh.

Moments later, I asked Adkins what she meant by her comment, but before giving you her answer here is an editor’s insertion of what is deemed to be relevant statisticals to help sort through the mysticals:

As a sophomore, after transferring from Florida, Adkins was second team All-ACC, and was the ACC Tournament MVP. As a pitcher, she put together a record of 24-7 with an ERA of 1.69, and she had 17 complete games in 28 starts and 182.1 innings pitched. At the plate, as a part-time offensive player, she hit .273 with nine home runs and 40 RBI. Tech won the ACC, and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional.

Last spring as a junior, she was 8-2 with an ERA of 2.30, and six complete games in 16 starts with 88.1 innings pitched. At the plate, she hit .183 with six home runs and 17 RBI. Tech won the ACC, and lost a first-round NCAA series to Oregon.

Clearly, Adkins’ role was diminished as a junior.

Some of that had to do with the arrival of Hope Rush, who pitched more innings (222.1) than Adkins and Jessica Coan combined (168.2), hit a lot of home runs (20) and drove in a lot of runs (60) on the way to first team All-ACC honors and the distinction of being tabbed ACC freshman of the year.

Now, back to the comments of the day.

When Adkins said, “they knew what I had,” it was a reference to the scouting report on her having made its way around the league between her first and second seasons in the ACC. Can’t argue that.

Yet the real trick pony was that Adkins didn’t know what Rush had, nor that she would fast-forward into the Tech vanguard with senior second baseman Jen Yee and sophomore shortstop Kelsi Weseman as the Jackets would roll to their third straight conference title.

There was no advance scouting report on that.

So, Adkins’ answer when I asked what she meant by saying she wasn’t prepared mentally:

“I spent a lot of the summer soul-searching. There is a certain level of mental toughness, or preparedness that you have to have. It is a sport of failure, and you have to be ready for that. However, I guess I didn’t do enough training for it. I was not prepared for it.”

To be clear, Adkins was wonderfully candid and passionate each time I spoke with her last year, especially when we worked on a story about raising funds for children victimized by the earthquake in Haiti.

That last answer was a merger of cliché – “it’s a sport of failure,” – and pain – “I was not prepared for it.” Did you really expect her to say that she didn’t foresee a freshman coming in and chewing up innings?

Coan faced similar circumstances. She transferred to North Georgia. Adkins stayed put.

Although she had a rough go of it Friday night when she was replaced in the third inning against Florida International, her season began swimmingly. As the season began last week, she was ACC Pitcher of the Week after going 2-0 with a save while not allowing an earned run in 15 innings last week.

It was a mass media setting Tuesday so I didn’t ask too many questions, but I hope I’ll be able to speak soon with Adkins about the psychological roller coaster that she appeared to be on last season.

Bet it’ll be interesting, and candid.

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