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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Call her K-risa: Highland senior ace hits two milestones in one weekend

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ANOTHER ONE DOWN: Karisa Hendrix racks up a strikeout in the Rumble-N-Raiderville Tournament. Photo/Sparks
Jenna Baker shouldn't feel bad.

She was not the first, nor was she the last to face the wrath of Highland Lady Rebel ace Karisa Hendrix.

There were 999 before and by the way things look, there may be 999 after.

It just so happened that Baker, the right fielder for the Armorel Lady Tigers, was the 1,000th strikeout victim in Hendrix' brilliant high school career.

And, just like she had so many times before, the big senior hurler from Highland made quick work of Baker in the first round of the Rumble-N-Raiderville Tournament March 20 in Jonesboro.

Baker tried a pair of feeble bunt attempts on the first two pitches Hendrix threw her, then on the third, Baker helplessly hacked at a pitch she could not catch up to, and she was fanned on just three pitches.

Hendrix ended the Armorel game by striking out 13 of the 16 batters she faced on the night. And until the fourth inning, she didn't even allow the Lady Tigers a hit.

Pretty impressive, right?

As it turns out, K-risa was just getting warmed up for the weekend.

The next afternoon against Westside, she racked up what has to be the ultimate accomplishment for a pitcher -- a perfect game.

Not only did Hendrix keep the Lady Warriors from reaching the base paths at all, she also only allowed four balls to be put into play, and only one of those reached the outfield. She also, as would be expected, reached double-digit strikeouts, fanning 11 Westside hitters.

Oh yeah, Highland also ended up winning the Rumble-N-Raidersville Tournament.

"It was a big weekend for Karisa," Lady Rebel Head Coach Rebecca Rider said. "She got her 1,000th strikeout pretty quickly Friday night and then she goes out and pitches a perfect game the next day. We are all just so proud of all she has done."

During her freshman season, Hendrix struck out 305; her sophomore season she K'd 257; and in her junior campaign last year, she fanned 438.

If striking out 1,000 batters over the course of a high school career were an easy thing, everyone would do it. But it's not easy, even though watching the way Hendrix commands the mound would lead one to think otherwise.

"She's a super kid and has a great work ethic," her coach said. "Karisa throws about a 150 pitches a day with her dad, outside of what she does with me (in team practice). Karisa goes to camp in the summer, so she works year-round. And she's strong. She's almost 6-0 and throwing it as hard as she does, she's able to overpower most of the batters she faces."

Although she could probably just rely on her blazing fastball, Hendrix' bag of tricks is fully-stocked.

"Karisa has a variety of pitches and we use four of them quite a bit," Rider said. "She's got a fastball and a changeup and a curveball, and her riseball, I think, is her best pitch. She has a couple more that she's worked on that we don't use very often. But if I had to pick one, I'd say her riseball is her best pitch."

Getting ahead of the other team is critical in any sport. But in softball, it serves two purposes -- it allows your pitcher to relax a bit, while giving your offense a few more opportunities to swing away.

"We encourage her to get ahead in the count and then the batters get a little more stressed and swing at things outside of the strike zone," said Rider. "And I don't care what sport you're talking about -- anytime you can get a lead you can relax a little more and get some more freedom. And that's the reason we've had the success we've had this year. We've been able to get out and get ahead, and then with her on the mound, we've been able to dominate so far."

Another key component to the way that Hendrix has baffled opposing batters for almost four years now can be found on the other side of home plate -- catcher Jessica Sellers.

"Another big reason for the success Karisa has had is the catcher behind the plate. I've always said a pitcher is only as good as the catcher and Jessica does a great job with her," Rider said. "Especially the last two years. They've really matured and Jess can go out to the mound and settle Karisa down when she needs to, so I think a big reason for Karisa's success is that catcher back there, too."

The Arkansas state high school record for strikeouts in fast pitch softball currently belongs to Pocahontas' Marissa Baltlz, who struck out 1,100 as a Lady Redskin from 2004-07.

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