The main battery|Hearn, Fuller anchor Warren Central softball

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 11, 2009

In naval parlance, the main battery is the weapon system that a fighting ship is designed to employ.

The battery in baseball jargon is the pitcher and catcher tandem.

Two different terms, yet both fit.

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The Lady Vikes boast a main battery of their own as they have built their success around pitcher Andi Hearn and catcher Mandy Fuller.

The two seniors, who have been an inseparable duo since they started working together nine years ago, anchor a stout Lady Vikes’ defense and also provide plenty of offensive firepower. They are near the top in nearly every offensive category.

Now the long-time starters, along with fellow senior Shelbi Conerly, are leading a team brimming with youth and little experience.

“With all their knowledge of the game, having them out there gives you a couple more coaches on the field,” WC coach Dana McGivney said. “When they get excited, it’s fun to watch. When they’re hitting well, playing well, it makes the rest of the team step it up.”

Fuller and Hearn, not known for emotional exuberance, had reason to celebrate on Tuesday after a win over Clinton and a coin flip gave the Lady Vikes the Division 4-5A title and homefield advantage in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

The 7-6 win over Clinton was McGivney’s first over the Lady Arrows in her three-year tenure at WC. For her three seniors, it was their second division title.

“Mandy caught a good game. Andi threw a good game. They all had key hits,” McGivney said. “When the wheels fall off, they put them back on. It’s great to have great senior leadership, even if it’s only three of them.”

Fuller is hitting .333 with a team-best 19 RBIs and eight extra-base hits, divided between five doubles and three triples. Hearn is hitting .380 with four doubles and seven RBIs.

While that leads to some good-natured ribbing, the competition is a positive one for both.

“Competition helps our team,” Fuller said. “That’s definitely helping us win games. I’m glad we have a competition, because it keeps our heads in the game and keeps our batting stats up. We feed off each other.”

Hearn (9-6) has thrown 90 innings in 15 appearances, all starts, with a 2.60 ERA and 84 strikeouts.

While her fastball is her primary weapon, she’s also adept at changing speeds to keep hitters off-balance.

One of the primary reasons for her success, besides her arsenal of pitches is Fuller, who has caught seemingly every game by Hearn. Fuller blocks the plate well and rarely does a ball, especially with runners on base, hit the backstop with her in the lineup.

McGivney lets Fuller call all the pitches, something the senior catcher has done since eighth grade, and she knows her best friend’s strengths and weaknesses well.

“It’s good to have a catcher who knows my pitches, what my pitches do, where they’re going to go,” Hearn said. “It’s great to have a catcher that knows you. She makes it a lot easier on me as a pitcher.”

Both of Mandy’s sisters, Tiffany and Brittany, were pitchers, so it was natural that Fuller take over behind the plate and she learned a lot from catching her elder siblings.

One thing Fuller learned from working with her sisters was that the key to a productive partnership between a pitcher and a catcher is chemistry.

“It’s not snapping at each other,” Fuller said. “It’s understanding each other. Growing up together helps us because we know what makes us mad and what makes us relax. I know what pitches work, when she’s struggling with a pitch and what to tell her when she struggles with a pitch.

“She listens to me and that’s a good thing because a lot of pitchers don’t listen to their catchers. We’ve benefitted from each other.”

A lot of catchers tend to rail on their pitchers when they visit the mound. Not Fuller. She knows what buttons to push and how to calm down her pitcher when things are not going well.

It usually involves her infectious laugh and a bright smile.

“I keep it relaxed and a lot of pitchers like that,” Fuller said. “I try to make them (pitchers) laugh, because when you chew them out, they tend to stress out more. If you make them laugh, they’ll relax and loosen up some more. I want them to relax, take a deep breath and chill out.”

Hearn said the approach works wonders.

“Whether I’m having a bad game or I’m in a bad mood, all she’s got to do is smile,” Hearn said.

The two might part ways when they graduate in May. Fuller’s college choice is still up in the air and Hearn isn’t sure if she wants to play softball at the next level.

For now, they’ll rely on their unique partnership to get the Lady Vikes where they want to go — Freedom Park in Ridgeland for the Class 5A state championship.

“We trust each other, we trust what we’re going to do and we’ve won games that way,” Fuller said.


Contact Steve Wilson at