Two games, 30 strikeouts.
Twenty-one batters faced in a game against Meigs County (Decatur, Tenn.), and 20 of them struck out. A no-hitter. Almost a perfect game, just one walk.
That is precisely how Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)
senior Rachel Albritton
began her season this week at the Commando Classic in Hendersonville, Tenn.
The numbers are staggering.
In the second inning of her second game of the season Tuesday, Albritton struck out her 1,000th opposing hitter. Not long from now, she'll likely earn her 100th career win. The 2011 MaxPreps second-team All-American
entered the season with a career 87-11 record, including 82-10 over the last two years.
"I didn‘t know I was that close (to 1,000)," said Albritton, who learned of her career total from head coach Jeff Breeden just before the season began. "I guess it tells how hard I‘ve worked. It‘s a good accomplishment."
The real celebration may not come until late May, however. That's when Albritton might be dancing around a softball field with her teammates after winning their second Tennessee state softball championship in four years. Riverdale was ranked in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Softball Rankings
up until this week.
"I think we're really excited about this year's team," said Albritton, 18, who began playing softball when she was just 3 and whose best friend is Katie Brown
, the team‘s catcher and leader in RBIs (45) last year. "I think all of our seniors are going to start this year. We have a lot of new players, too, that have a lot of potential and a lot of talent. So I think this year we can do really good and I think we can have a really good season."
At Riverdale, those successes are measured in titles. Already this year, the girls basketball team won the Tennessee Class AAA championship. The softball team won a state championship in 2009 and finished just two wins short of a state championship in 2010 and 2011. The Warriors have won 15 district and seven regional championships in the last 21 years.
Breeden, who guided the Warriors to 719 wins in 21 previous seasons as Riverdale's coach and was named Tennessee Coach of the Year in 2009, has one shining hope for Albritton in 2012.
"I hope that she leads us to a state championship in the latter part of May," he said. "And I hope that when it‘s all said and done in June, she‘s on the All-America list."
One could almost write in Albritton‘s name on that list right now. In three seasons that included a partial freshman year due to an injured shoulder, Albritton has totaled 87 wins, three saves and 985 strikeouts. Her first team won a state title. The next two teams finished third in the Class AAA state tournament.
When high school ball ends each May, Albritton has played club softball. Last year's U-18 Murfreesboro Firebirds team, coached by Breeden, went to the national tournament. She doesn't play a sport during the fall, if only to constantly work out with her dad, Scott, and attend her twin sister's volleyball games at Riverdale High.
"My dad always catches me," said Albritton, who has a 3.5 GPA and is a member of the Family
Career and Community Leaders of America.
. "Sometimes we‘ll spend two hours in the facility together, pitching and working on stuff to make sure that I get better for next season."
By late spring 2012, once her high school career is over and the graduation gown has been put away, the next season will arrive at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She was one of four players signed to national letters of intent this past fall. Both Rachel and Olivia will attend UT-Chattanooga.
"We had visited different colleges around Tennessee," Rachel Albritton said. "We kind of just liked UTC the best. It has a good softball program and we both like the campus. So it's kind of turned out good because we've never been away from each other for 18 years now."
Frank Reed, the softball coach at UT-Chattanooga, is happy to have her.
"Rachel is small in stature, but has it all," he said in a statement. "Rachel is a winner and we really like that about her. She has all the pitches and hits her spots really well."
And that is why Albritton has cruised over 1,000 strikeouts and may even pass the school record of 1,403, set by former National Softball Player of the Year Cat Hosfield, who is now a pitcher and infielder at nationally ranked University of Tennessee.
Albritton isn‘t overpowering. Instead, she has a mix of pitches that freezes batters in their place.
"Her movement on her ball is so good," Breeden said. "Her ball is never straight. It jumps every pitch that she has and she‘s got them all. They all move."
Albritton and the Warriors have a challenging schedule. Once they‘re done with the highly regarded Commando Classic, they‘ll face Alexander Central of Taylorsville, N.C., the No. 16 team in the Xcellent 25, on March 20, followed the next day by No. 3 North Davidson of Lexington, N.C. They also host their own tournament, the Lady Warrior Southern Classic, the last week of March. Paul Bowker, an online and newspaper sports journalist for 30 years and the author of two Major League Baseball books, is based in the Chicago area. He may be reached at email@example.com