Standing 5-foot-3 and weighing 110 pounds, Lynden Christian pitcher Bridget Kruck is the smallest player on LC's roster, but in the pitching circle her game stands out.
"She is competitive," Lynden Christian coach Mitch Moorlag said in a phone interview. "She is the smallest in stature of any girl we have on the team, so you can really say she puts every ounce of energy into every pitch."
Kruck may not blow opponents away with 70 mph pitches, but her placement and ability to pitch to contact has helped Lynden Christian go from a team using 2012 to reload to a state-quality club.
"Personally, I don't think at all just because I'm smaller I'm a slower pitcher," Kruck said in a phone interview. "I can throw slower, but I'm just as fast as other pitchers in the league."
Kruck, as well as other players working in key roles such as Erika Heystek, Shelby Brown and Karley De Jager, are a major reason Lynden Christian improved its play toward the end of the season and claimed a spot in the Class 1A State Tournament.
"It's really the frosting on the cake for these kids," Moorlag said. "We're always trying to have positive thinking, and realistically we're an incredibly young team. But day one, there were a lot on the team who thought this is going to be a learning year."
Moorlag has learned the Lyncs are capable of being a state-caliber team, especially when LC is limiting outs and Kruck is at her best in the circle.
Lynden Christian plays its first-round game against Onalaska at noon Friday, May 25, at Columbia Playfields in Richland.
One of the reasons Moorlag believes his Lyncs have been able to play their best ball when it counts is the maturation process the club has undergone throughout the season.
"They've grown leaps and bounds this year, the sophomores especially," Moorlag said. "You can start to see them become more and more comfortable in their defensive positions, what plays to make and when to make them."
Kruck's development has also been instrumental to the success Lynden Christian has enjoyed this year.
"My skill set has improved as a pitcher," Kruck said. "I can get hitters off balance with my screwball, and from a mental approach it has been a lot better. I don't carry over (anything) to the next batter."
Kruck has proved herself time and time again this season. She has compiled an 11-11 record, but perhaps no win was more important than a nine inning 8-7 victory against Seattle Christian in a loser-out game at the 1A Tri-District Tournament.
The Lyncs led 6-2 going into the bottom of the seventh, but Seattle Christian rallied for four runs off Kruck to send the game into extras. However, Kruck displayed her competitive fire by shutting down the Warriors in the bottom of the ninth after the Lyncs took an 8-7 lead earlier in the inning.
Several times during the final inning, Kruck, who pitched a complete game, knelt to the ground to catch her breath and focus herself. Moorlag said it was an impressive display, and it was also the first time he's witnessed his club battle adversity and come out on the right side.
"That was huge," Moorlag said. "That Seattle Christian game was the first game all year we dealt with adversity that was given to us. We dealt with it in a positive way and ended up winning the game."
Moorlag has preached to limit teams to 21 outs all season, and more often than not, the reason for LC's adversity has occurred due to errors committed by the Lyncs' defense.
Even though errors can be frustrating for a pitcher, Kruck has learned to trust her defense.
"I always have trust in my defense," Kruck said. "I just know that they have the next play if someone screws up."
It's an attitude Moorlag praises Kruck for having.
"She gets behind the defense as well as anyone I've ever seen," Moorlag said. "In no shape or form have I ever seen her roll her eyes and get bad body language. She is the first one, when a teammate makes an error, to say, 'Don't worry about it. Let's get the next one, kid.'"
Kruck, like Moorlag, believes success the Lyncs may have at state will hinge on preventing teams from having extra opportunities.
"Our key goal is to give 21 outs," Kruck said. "We don't want to give teams extra outs. We want to have good teamwork, and hopefully we'll win."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
2012 LYNDEN CHRISTIAN STATE ROSTER
No. Player Pos. Year
1 Lexi Vander Griend 2B Jr.
2 Joci Buys OF Sr.
4 Bridget Kruck P/IF Jr.
5 Kasey Luna P/OF So.
7 Meagan Van Berkum SS/OF Sr.
8 Kayla Otter 3B/OF So.
9 Shelby Brown C So.
10 Mikki Jansma 2B/OF Jr.
11 Ciarra Flint 3B Jr.
14 Erika Heystek OF Sr.
15 Lexi Vander Griend SS So.
20 Lexi Holleman C So.
21 Karley De Jager P/1B So.
22 Kristen Zoerink OF So.
23 Jenah Korthuis P/OF Fr.
24 Brooke Handerson 1B/3B Sr.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.