Pitchers Leinstock, Guilmette play big roles on Horizon softball

Morgan Leinstock fires a pitch away during Horizon’s 7-2 over O’Connor High School. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

When teams face the Horizon High School softball team, they can usually count on seeing one of two players standing in the pitching circle raring to go.

And when everything falls into place for the two pitchers, batters struggle.

The Huskies rely primarily on junior Morgan Leinstock and senior Ashley Guilmette to toss out the bulk of their pitches and Horizon Head Coach Jackie Colburn said that’s because she doesn’t have many other pitchers on the team.

Horizon has garnered a 13–7–1 record — as of Thursday, April 5 — so far this season, putting the team on pace to finish better than last year’s 11-win season and 2016’s 15-win campaign.

Through 71.1 innings, Leinstock boasts an earned run average of 1.18 and has struck out 117 batters prior to this week’s games against O’Connor High School. Guilmette has a 3.05 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 39 innings.

“They complement each other well which is really good,” Coach Colburn said in an April 3 interview. “(They have) different aspects. Totally different aspects. So I can start Morgan and if I want to do something different, Ashley’s different or vice-versa.”

Some key differences between the two pitchers is their approach in the circle, where they toss the ball in the strike zone and the types of pitches they throw.

Catcher Neeley Bell says Guilmette likes her pitching sequence to go fast while Leinstock goes at her own pace even slowing the game down at times.

Leinstock is also animated in the circle when she starts pitching well. She shows a lot of emotion while pitching and is vocal about it.

“If I don’t do anything, it’s like we’re not communicating,” she said in an April 3 interview. “So if I scream, we all communicate and we know what we’re doing.”

Morgan Leinstock waits for her turn to bat during Horizon’s 7-2 over O’Connor High School (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Leinstock’s pitches tend to go lower in the zone as she favors the drop ball and off-speed pitches. Guilmette likes to throw higher in the zone with a mixture of curveballs and screwballs.

An example of this difference playing out, Leinstock said, is sometimes Guilmette starts the game off with high pitches. Opposing batters adjust to this style just in time for Coach Colburn to mix it up.

“Then when I come in, I throw very low and they miss it because they’re used to hitting up in the box,” Leinstock said in an April 3 interview.

Even though Leinstock is having a solid year, Coach Colburn said Guilmette is also a big part of making the team’s pitching work.

Coach Colburn pointed to the Tuesday, April 3 game against O’Connor High School as an example of where Guilmette is vital.

In that game, Coach Colburn said O’Connor started to make adjustments on Leinstock as the game progressed. Leinstock pitched the entire game, giving up two runs in the 7–2 win.

Heading into the Thursday, April 5 game, Coach Colburn said she can either start Guilmette for a new look or continue with Leinstock for some innings and make a changes to Guilmette during the game. Those aren’t the only possibilities she could do, she said.

“Now, I think it’s a game of cat and mouse, deception,” Coach Colburn said. “Making sure (our pitchers) start to make adjustments and (opponents) change their gears for us.”

While Leinstock has had a pretty consistent season so far, Guilmette has had moments where she has struggled.

Guilmette has had games where she’s given up seven, eight or nine runs. On the other hand, Guilmette has not given up a run in her last two appearances prior to the April 5 game against O’Connor.

“This week, we’ve worked on some stuff and I think (Guilmette) found her groove so she’s going to get her opportunities, obviously,” Coach Colburn said.

In those moments Guilmette is struggling, Bell said her approach to her isn’t about her pitching.

This is the same approach she takes when either pitcher is in a slump.

“For the most part, I usually don’t try to talk to them about their pitching because obviously, I think they threw something wrong so I just try to encourage them,” she said in an April 3 interview.

After the April 5 game against O’Connor, the Huskies have three more region series left before the postseason begins. The remaining teams are Desert Mountain, Boulder Creek and Pinnacle high schools.

In order for the Huskies to keep on this trajectory, Coach Colburn said Leinstock’s and Guilmette’s pitching will play a pivotal role.

“They’ve got to give us opportunity like (Tuesday),” Coach Colburn said. “Two runs off four hits and we just have to keep our bats rolling. We scored a couple and gave our bats away but then were able to make our adjustments and keep on playing.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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