Season of firsts for Balint, Avon Grove

Avon Grove's Maggie Balint has a 0.49 ERA in 19 games, with 286 strikeouts.
Avon Grove's Maggie Balint has a 0.49 ERA in 19 games, with 286 strikeouts.
Posted: May 22, 2014

Avon Grove's Maggie Balint says when she's not playing games, her black softball pants sit in a box in her room.

They're mud-caked and sweat-soaked and have a hole in them. The sophomore pitcher acknowledges that they don't smell great, because she doesn't wash them much. She never used to be this superstitious, the righthander says.

Then again, there have been a lot of first-time occurrences for the Red Devils softball program this season.

With Balint in the circle and first-year coach Julie Hatfield at the helm for Avon Grove (15-4), the squad earned its first Ches-Mont National championship, set the mark for most wins in a season, and received the program's highest seed ever in the District 1 Class AAAA tournament.

Is it all because of Balint's pants? She's not willing to take the risk and find out, so they'll stay dirty.

Balint has an earned run average of 0.49 in 19 games, with 286 strikeouts in 1292/3 innings. She has allowed only nine earned runs this season and has given up 37 hits. Balint, who has committed to Delaware, is 24 strikeouts away from 600 for her career.

"She has gotten stronger," Hatfield said. "She is throwing harder and is a little more consistent."

"She's reliable," the coach added. "You know what you are going to get from her. She will put her nose to the ground, dig deep, and throw the ball hard."

What motivates one of the most dominant pitchers in the area? A friendly competition with West Chester Henderson's ace, Lauren Butts, for one, and an eagerness to learn whatever she can from other pitchers, for another.

A self-proclaimed "not serious person," Balint keeps it light in the circle for the Red Devils. That mentality helps her keep focus, saving her from pressing in tight situations, and alleviates whatever stress her teammates may be feeling.

Even though she often helps calm her teammates down, especially in high-pressure games like last week's win over Henderson, Balint does get nervous; you just wouldn't know it from looking at her.

The second-seeded Red Devils will host Central Bucks South in the second round of the district tournament at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Until then, Balint's pants will sit in her room, in the box where she has kept them for weeks.

The routine has brought her a lot of luck so far, so why change anything now?


Softball Top 10

SOFTBALL

Records are through Tuesday. Last week's rankings in parentheses.

Rk. Team Rec.

1. Souderton (2) 14-4

2. Avon Grove (3) 15-4

3. Springfield-D (1) 17-3

4. Arch. Ryan (5) 19-2

5. Henderson (6) 15-5

6. W. Tennent (NR) 14-4

7. North Penn (8) 14-6

8. Neshaminy (4) 14-5

9. Episcopal Ac. (9) 14-2

10. Chichester (10) 18-2

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Central Bucks East (10-8), Lansdale Catholic (17-4), Methacton (16-4), Pennsbury (13-7), Radnor (14-5) .

- Kate Harman


rallysports@phillynews.com

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