March 13, 2011
By Jon Cooper
There’s nothing wrong with being a one-trick pony — if that one trick is really good.
Senior pitcher Kristen Adkins is proving that.
Adkins played all over the field last season and could have been at anywhere of three positions — the pitcher’s mound, where she made 19 appearances (14 starts), third base (19 games, 16 starts), or left field (eight games, four starts).
While she was an effective option at all three positions, her pitching suffered, as she went 8-2, with a 2.30 ERA. Those are good numbers, but not pale in comparison to her sophomore season, and first at Tech, when she was 24-7, with a 1.69 ERA. The 24 wins led the ACC.
“I didn’t really have anywhere to go but up from where I was last year,” Adkins said. “I had a learning curve and it was tough. But you figure out who you are when times are hardest, who you really are.”
During the off-season Adkins, head coach Sharon Perkins and new pitching coach Shaina Ervin decided that the best place to go was to the mound, and only to the mound. No more third base or left field.
“In the past, I’ve always played other positions a lot as well as pitching,” Adkins said. “This year we said, I’ll take a few reps but my main focus is to pitch. That’s where I’m going to help the team most and that’s where I want to go.”
The difference has been profound, as Adkins is right at the top of the ACC in just about every pitching category. She’s also noted a difference in her physical state.
“I have more energy, I have more focus into that one position every day,” she said. “So I don’t feel like by the time I get to pitching after everything else that I’m exhausted. I can give everything there, mentally, physically, emotionally and get better to help the team.”
The senior right-hander from McKinney, Texas, was named ACC Pitcher of the Week last week for the second time this season, after going 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA, with two complete-game shutouts. For the season, Adkins is sporting an 8-2 record with three saves and a microscopic 0.82 ERA (7 earned runs in 62.0 innings).
On Sunday, she was a central figure in the Yellow Jackets’ sweep, earning the win in the opener, a 12-2 rout of Belmont, throwing three hitless frames, then saving the nightcap for Hope Rush, hurling 2 2/3 hitless frames at Georgia State. Adkins had thrown a complete-game, two-hit shutout against the Panthers back on March 1, striking out a career-high 10 hitters.
The win at Georgia State back on March 1 may prove to be a turning point for the team, as it launched the 10-game winning streak the Yellow Jackets currently ride. The timing of the win was as important. The team was 7-4, having lost three in a row and four of five, including three losses in four games at the Felsberg Memorial Tournament in Miami.
Adkins feels that the losses in Miami were deceiving, as the Jackets scored five runs in the three games, and dropped a pair of one-run decisions.
“When we were down in Miami, we had runners in scoring position. We just couldn’t get them across,” she said. “It wasn’t that we weren’t swinging the bats or we weren’t having good pitch selection. It was just that nothing was falling.
“We had a little hiccup in Miami. I think that’s brought us closer as an entire unit,” she added. “My defense has been stellar. I’m not a strikeout pitcher. I never have been a power pitcher. I rely a lot on my defense being able to make the plays. They’ve just been solid.”
Her not being a strikeout pitcher may come as news to opposing hitters, as Adkins, who relies on a dropball as her outpitch, has whiffed 65 in her 62 innings.
“She’s been on fire and I love seeing her stuff work for her because I know how much work she puts into it,” said left fielder Shannon Bear, who won Player of the Week last week, completing a Tech sweep of the weekly conference awards (coincidentally, Tech’s Alysha Rudnik won ACC Player of the Week, the other time Adkins won Pitcher of the Week). “She’s getting so much out of it and I think that’s great.”
Adkins knows the season still has a long way to go, and, she believes this team has the potential to take the postseason even longer.
“The team has just really been coming together,” she said. “It’s all about getting hot at the right time. So if we can eliminate the hiccups early, hopefully we’ll get hot right when we need to.
“This year I feel like we hit, one through nine, more consistently,” she added. “Better to have had that [slump] then than to have it in a few weeks.”
Not that she’s looking that far ahead. This season’s Adkins is honed in one thing and one thing only.
“The most important game is the next game.”