Marquette junior pitcher Annah Junge has started this high school softball season undefeated, a repeat of last fall’s 16-0 season.
You have to go back to the Class 4 state championship game against Staley when she was a freshman to find last loss. In fact, it’s her only loss in high school. Her sophomore season was one to remember. She finished with a .441 batting average, five homers and 21 RBI as a hitter. As a pitcher, Junge wound up with a 0.94 ERA, but she keeps her successes in perspective.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a game and [they’re] just numbers,” Junge said. She has been playing softball for about 12 years and says that she loves the game. When she’s not pitching, she plays in right field or as the designated hitter. But make no mistake, she likes being in the circle.
“I like pitching because I like to be involved in every play, and I feel like I have more control over the game,” Junge said. She has the variety needed to keep hitters off balance.
“I throw pitches that move on all planes from left to right and up and down,” Junge said. “I also like to change speeds throughout the game from hard to soft. It all depends on the day what I have the most confidence in. I think some of my strengths are I don’t show a lot of emotion when I pitch, so it’s difficult for things to get in my head.
“I also think I’m good at processing and understanding the game within a game, stuff like planning ahead on a batter and knowing what pitch to throw in what count.”
Marquette coach Amy Doyle knows that such a talented hurler does not come around often.
“She is one of the best pitchers I have had the privilege of working with over the years,” Doyle said. “It is invaluable to know that we have a player who we can count on to be consistent and give it her all every step of the way.”
Away from Marquette, Junge takes lessons from Russell Cooper, who is an assistant coach at Washington University. Cooper is one of the top softball teachers in the world. Junge likes what he is doing for her.
“He helps my mental game like he’ll talk me through situations and when is the best time to throw a certain pitch,” Junge said. “He also helps to keep my fundamentals in check and just to relax when I throw.”
For Junge, it’s all about just trying to help the Mustangs win games, but she does not win by herself.
“I rely on my defense a lot; I don’t get all 21 outs of a game by myself,” Junge said. “I can always hear them supporting me, and I know they’ve got my back.
“As a hitter, I just try to make solid contact and do my job. I try to approach every at bat relaxed and focused on moving the runner over or whatever my purpose is. I consider myself as a more-base-hit person instead of a big power hitter.”
Being a weapon both as a hitter, a fielder and a pitcher is something Doyle can appreciate.
“Annah is great both offensively and defensively,” Doyle said. “She was and continues to be a force to be reckoned with on the mound and in the batter’s box.”
Junge holds the Marquette career record for highest winning percentage at .955, but her loss to Staley stays with her.
“I remember thinking that those Staley players were huge,” Junge said. “I also remember feeling like I let the team down after they had scored runs offensively, but I wasn’t able to keep our lead.”
She says holding the school’s career record adds “a little pressure, but the more I play the more I forget about the record. “I try not to let it be that big of a deal because I think it’s more important to play for my teammates instead of trying to play for my record,” she said.
“I can only imagine that there is pressure being in that position,” Doyle said. “As a team, we talk about how to overcome pressure-filled situations mentally and she has developed strategies to deal with it. We have full confidence in her and know that she will do whatever is in her control to be successful.
“She is one of our captains this year and the girls really look to her to lead by example. She is a great all-around person who people want to be around because she is genuine, thoughtful and has a great sense of humor.”