Feb. 26, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
This weekend: vs. Louisville, First pitch: Saturday: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Sunday, Noon
While not by design, the pitching circle serves as a reminder of the solitude of the position.
Sure, there are eight teammates willing to help out, but all of them are outside the circle. On the inside, it’s the pitcher, and the pitcher alone, dependent on her physical and psychological tools. The latter, especially, must be at its sharpest for the pitcher to be at hers.
Right now, freshman pitcher Christina Biggerstaff is at her sharpest, physically and psychologically.
You know how they say, “Everything’s bigger in Texas”? Well, Biggerstaff, the 5-8, Houston, Texas, native, sees herself as Texas-sized tough and Texas-sized intimidating. Big stuff from the righty, who goes by the nickname…”Barbie.”
It’s not easy to come off as tough or intimidating with the moniker “Barbie,” but consider the mitigating factor that she gave herself, and insisted on, the nickname.
“My natural hair is actually blonde. In seventh grade, my best friend, was like, ‘Oh, you look like a ‘Barbie,’” she recalled. “I got on a tournament team when I got older and there were two of us named Christina and we were both pitchers. So I told the coach to call me ‘Barbie’ and it kind of stuck after that. I was pretty stubborn about it. I was like, ‘You’re going to call me ‘Barbie.’ and they did.”
Ironically, convincing others of her toughness was easier than convincing herself of it. That was especially true during the fall of 2014, as a freshman at Georgia Tech.
“I had a rough fall. A lot of things were coming at me. Not just academics but socially, too, that I had to deal with and I think I let that get to me,” said Biggerstaff. “Going into January I was trying to really work on my positive attitude and trying to believe in myself. Everyone told me, ‘Hey, you’re great. You’ve just got to believe.’ But I don’t think I really believed in myself. Once I truly believed that I could do it and that I’m the best, that’s what really propelled me.
“I’m starting to believe that more,” she added. “I’m having a better time separating school and my social life away from softball. When I get on that field, that’s all that matters. I don’t like being beat, especially being beat by yourself, that’s terrible.”
“When freshmen come into a new setting and see that every player on every roster is good it’s a bit intimidating. Players start to doubt themselves and lose confidence,” said Hoerner. “It’s our job as coaches to help them understand they are here for a reason. Just because things aren’t going your way or not what you are used to, you never give up, stay the course and good things will happen. That was a little difficult for ‘Barbie’ to understand in the beginning but through many conversations and work with Coach Morgan I feel she is getting it now.”
She’s got it locked in after last weekend. Biggerstaff entered Mewborn Field on Friday afternoon for the start of the Georgia Tech-Georgia State Invite with no wins and an ERA over 7.00, the highest on the team. She left Sunday afternoon with a team-high-tying three W’s and a 2.53 ERA, lowest on the team. In addition, she could boast about her first collegiate complete game, and a piece of history, as part of a combined no-hitter.
“I didn’t play with fear,” she explained. “I didn’t care who was up there. I was going to strike you out. If you got a hit off of me you weren’t going to do it again.”
Nobody did. Only five Mountaineers managed a hit off Biggerstaff on Sunday, all of them singles, and none of them got as far as third base. None of the batters “Barbie” faced all weekend touched third base, as she threw 12 ⅔ shutout innings, striking out 22. Savannah State didn’t fare much better in its look at the freshman.
Riding a scoreless streak of 5 ⅔ innings from Friday (she got the final three outs in the opener then, in the nightcap, got the win, throwing 4 ⅔ scoreless, hitless innings in relief of starter Kylie Kleinschmidt), Biggerstaff entered the second game in the first inning after Kleinschmidt walked the leadoff hitter and proceeded to tame the Lady Tigers. She allowed the inherited runner to advance on an illegal pitch and, after two strikeouts, walked a hitter, but induced an inning-ending groundout to get out of the first-and-third jam.
She’d be in command the rest of the day.
“Barbie” allowed only one other Lady Tiger to reach — on a fourth-inning error — and retired the final six hitters to complete the no-hitter. She struck out 10 overall in the 18-0 victory. Biggerstaff didn’t allow a runner past second and faced only two batters over the minimum
“It was really exciting. I didn’t even know I threw a no-hitter,” said Biggerstaff of the 28th no-no in Georgia Tech program history, the third combined-no-hitter (the first since sophomore Tiffany Johnson and senior Sarah Wood combined to no-hit Lipscomb on March 3, 2007) and first no-hitter in five years, since Hope Rush zapped North Carolina on May 15, 2010. “Everyone came up to me and was like, ‘You threw a no-hitter!’ I was like, ‘Really?’ I had no idea,” Biggerstaff said. “I was just playing my game. It was pretty great.”
Perhaps the best part was there was no hangover.
Sticking with the hot hand, Hoerner started the freshman in Sunday’s tournament finale against Mount St. Mary’s and she responded, throwing a complete-game, five-hit shutout, with 13 strikeouts. For the weekend Biggerstaff didn’t allow a run in 17 ⅔ innings of work, surrendered only the five hits on Sunday, and had a strikeouts-to-walks ratio approaching 7:1 (32 K’s vs. 5 BBs). Over her final two games, she struck out 23, while walking three.
This weekend, the Yellow Jackets, 7-8 record and riding a five-game winning streak, open ACC play at Mewborn Field against Louisville, 5-5, winners of three of four.
Biggerstaff hopes to take her No. 77 (her number from her travel ball days, when lucky No. 7 was taken so she took 77 to “double the luck”), and her trademark Road Warriors-esque eye black into the circle. She feels good about her mindset and even better about the team’s.
“For the most part, in the first couple of weeks, we kind of played with a disconnect and everyone kind of knew it,” she said. “We weren’t playing to our standard. This tournament I feel like I just broke out. You saw all the home runs and the hits. Everything was just kind of flowing. It was weird but it was awesome. I’m glad it happened.”
Hoerner also is glad about what happened last weekend and what she believes is starting to happen with her freshman.
“‘Barbie’ is smiling and very confident which is a great thing for our team,” she said. “I’m proud of the pitcher she is becoming.”
Ideally, Biggerstaff will continue to dole out the problems this weekend as she defends Tech’s home turf.
“We don’t want to get beat at home,” she said. “We have our minds in that this is OUR field, not theirs.”
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