Dominant pitching could make runs hard to come by in Northwest

One run might not seem like much in a high school softball game.

But in the Northwest League, one run might be enough to win a whole lot of games this season.

The league is stacked with ace pitchers, each of whom can frustrate an offense.

Shadow Ridge senior Mandy Harmon, Palo Verde sophomore Missy McCormick and Cimarron-Memorial sophomore Carrie Sheehan are all capable of dominating games.

“I can’t remember a time when we had so many dominant pitchers,” sixth-year Centennial coach Mike Livreri said.

Toss in Centennial’s Jennifer Watkins, Arbor View’s Nichole Diaz and Legacy’s Darcey Cochran and the league’s pitching surplus is beyond impressive.

Teams might have to execute bunts and slap bunts often and take advantage of any little defensive mistake just to score.

“It’s the kind of ball real softball players will enjoy,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. “There’s no room for error this year.”

Harmon might be the best known of the bunch. She went 19-1 with 161 strikeouts and a 0.59 ERA in the regular season and led the Mustangs to the Sunset Region title.

“She’s very competitive at everything, ping-pong, throwing darts, you name it,” Mustangs coach Cynthia Winter said. “This being her senior year, she’s even a little hungrier.”

That’s not a good sign for the rest of the league. Harmon allowed only 10 earned runs in 118 innings in the regular season, then allowed just four runs in 32 innings in the region tournament.

“Mandy is just dominant,” Livreri said. “She keeps her team in the game, every game.”

McCormick can be just as good.

In her freshman season, she had a 0.95 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 132 innings.

“Missy has matured a lot from last year to this year,” Glass said. “She can throw anything.”

Sheehan’s statistics weren’t as impressive as Harmon’s or McCormick’s, but the Spartans pitcher had a fantastic region tournament.

Sheehan, who had a 2.97 ERA in the regular season, allowed just six runs in four games in the tournament, including locking up with Harmon in a 10-inning duel. Sheehan allowed two unearned runs in a 2-1 loss.

“She believes she can pitch with the best,” Cimarron coach Steve Gorden said. “She gained a lot of confidence in the postseason.”

Legacy’s Cochran and Arbor View’s Diaz each had a sub-3.00 ERA and posted a winning record in limited duty last season. Watkins went 8-3 and struck out 75 in 87 innings.

“It’s going to be competitive every game,” Winter said. “I think our league is the toughest.”