Lady Flashes’ junior led playoff team on pitcher’s mound and in batter’s box

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2003

[5/18/03]Every so often, Laura Beth Lyons will pause for a moment during a game to wipe the sweat off her brow and steal a glance over toward shortstop.

She’ll study the defense for a second, perhaps thinking of how she’d play the batter if she were there instead of stuck inside her chalk circle. Then she’ll go back to work at her day job, mowing down batters, piling up strikeouts, and generally making life miserable for opposing teams.

Lyons, a junior at St. Aloysius, did that better than anyone else in Warren County this season. She compiled an 11-5 record with one save, struck out 165 batters in 101 innings, posted a minuscule 0.42 ERA, and earned The Vicksburg Post’s fast-pitch softball Player of the Year award.

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Not bad for a converted shortstop.

Lyons was originally St. Al’s second pitcher, but was pressed into service last season when ace Allison Hearn was injured. Lyons responded by going 12-4 with a 0.75 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 116 innings, leading the Lady Flashes to the South State championship series.

“It’s not really my position. I just did it because I had to fill in for Allison when she got hurt,” said Lyons, who plays shortstop for her summer tournament team.

When Hearn graduated, Lyons became St. Al’s ace. She prepared for the role by going to a pitching coach to work on location, speed, and conditioning, and to learn several new pitches.

“I just figured if we were going to make it to the playoffs, I had to learn a few new pitches,” Lyons said.

The extra work paid immediate dividends. In her first three starts, she threw two one-hitters and a no-hitter. She continued to dominate the rest of the season, leading the Lady Flashes back to the Class 1A-2A playoffs.

In addition to her pitching, Lyons was also a force at the plate. The Lady Flashes’ leadoff hitter led the team with a .476 average, scored 33 runs, and was 48-for-49 on stolen base attempts.

“I like batting first, because the pitcher is not necessarily warmed up yet,” Lyons said. “After the first two pitches you’re going to know what she’s pitching. I think it’s easier batting first, because she’s going to throw her worst pitches.”

In a second-round playoff game against Bogue Chitto, Lyons had the finest pitching performance of her high school career. She struck out 17 batters and allowed only an infield single in a 4-0 win. Bogue Chitto didn’t hit a ball out of the infield against her.

“I was just on, I guess,” Lyons said. “I have pitching lessons on Wednesday, so waking up and playing Thursday could have helped too. We usually don’t play on Thursday.”

The Lady Flashes lost the next two games of the series and were bounced out of the playoffs. Despite the disappointing end to the season, however, St. Al did establish itself as one of the top small-school programs in the state.

“I think our team is one of the elite programs in the state. I think we established that by making it there so many times,” Lyons said. “We’re only losing two people. It’s going to hurt at first base and center field, because those are leadership positions, but if everybody works hard we should be right back where we were this year.”