NEW CASTLE —
It’s amazing what a little trust can do.
New Castle High freshman pitcher Carley Aven is just starting to learn the benefits of that.
Entering her first season on the Lady ’Canes’ softball team, the young hurler thought she had to do everything short of literally putting the team on her back in order to succeed.
“I felt like I had to get confidence in them, I guess,” she said. “I knew they were good, but I just didn’t know how good.”
Aven is a fast learner.
As trust in her teammates improved, so did her performance, culminating in a bit of history for the New Castle softball program.
In a WPIAL Section 1-AAA home game against Central Valley last week, Aven pitched lights out, recording a no-hitter in a 7-0 victory.
Her performance earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
“It felt good,” Aven simply put of her 11 strikeout, no-hit effort — which appears to be a first in Lady ’Canes program history, as records back to the 1993 season revealed no other no-hitters during that time.
Rattled by injuries over the last few weeks, New Castle experimented with different players at different positions. One of those was the catcher spot, as regular starter Abba Frengel went down with an ankle injury. The Lady ’Canes may have found their solution behind the plate with Aleigha Withrow, who caught Aven’s no-hitter and has kept things simple for her young battery mate.
“Aleigha is making her a better pitcher,” coach Leah Ann Williams said. “Aleigha’s a junior and she knows the game and she’s keeping it very simple for Carley — like when we give the signs for the pitch. Aleigha’s simplifying things I think is calming her down, and it’s making her a better pitcher.”
Simplifying her game has been something Aven was struggling with earlier in the season, but Williams is encouraged with the progress she’s made in the last few weeks. Along with the no-hitter of Central Valley last week, Aven also excelled in a matchup against then-undefeated Ambridge, tossing seven innings and striking out nine in a 9-4 upset victory.
“She’s made a good transition,” Williams said. “She puts too much pressure on herself. She’s kind of a perfectionist. She’s a good kid, and she’s starting to listen — which is good. The big thing is, she’s really starting to trust in her teammates in knowing if she hits her spots and changes her speeds, they’ll make the plays.”
Pitching is an art form for Aven, one she has been trying to perfect for six years.
“I like being in control and a leader. I throw curveballs and changeups pretty much. I throw a lot of fastballs, too,” she said. “My curve is my best junk pitch.
“I practice four times a week. I work on mechanics, that’s the main thing. If you don’t have mechanics, you can’t throw.”
Not everything has been a success for Aven, specifically when she has a bat in her hand.
“Terrible!” was the expression she used to describe her hitting ability.
“We have her just doing one thing right now — throwing the ball,” Williams reasoned. “She could actually be a very good hitter. She’s a very good bunter, but pitching is a different animal. I just want her to concentrate on one thing right now. It’s just one thing at a time, and she’s doing really well.”
Inspired by her older sister, former Neshannock outfielder Chelsea Aven, and her late uncle Anthony Aven, a baseball star at New Castle and Youngstown State University, Carley is on her way to leaving her own legacy on the diamond.
“It’s just funny. Pitching is such a different sort of aspect to the game, and she’s really done well the last two weeks especially. I hope she gets many more (no-hitters). In my whole four years at college and high school, I only had one,” Williams said. “I’m excited for her. I don’t think she even gets it yet. When she’s 50 like me and she looks back on it, she’ll think that was really cool.
“I think the next goal now is the perfect game. I think that’s very achievable.”
NEW CASTLE —
It’s amazing what a little trust can do.
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