Forget about powder-puff football being a non-contact sport.
When the juniors and seniors at Cooper met for their annual game Tuesday, inside linebacker Lauren Heinrich made life miserable for at least one opposing tailback.
On a run up the middle, Heinrich dug in and braced for impact at the goal line. After the collision, the senior running back left the game and headed to the hospital to get nine stitches on her chin.
Heinrich’s efforts prevented the touchdown and helped the juniors win the game.
“We had a collision and I busted her chin open with my head,” Heinrich said. “No helmet.”
The helmet policy might be something worth looking into for future powder-puff games, but in the meantime Heinrich will bring that toughness to the circle Friday.
It’s that sort of intensity that has defined Heinrich’s career as the standout pitcher for Cooper’s softball team, which will face Andrews in a best-of-three Region I-3A quarterfinal beginning at 7 p.m. Friday in Seminole.
The Lady Pirates lost in the same round to the Lady Mustangs last year, and the defeat has been on their minds ever since.
“For 365 days,” Heinrich said. “I’ve tried to bury it. That game was bad all over. We couldn’t make plays and I did not pitch well.”
Cooper lost 3-2 and committed four errors. Only one Andrews run was earned.
Heinrich has been much the same pitcher this year as she was a season ago, when as a sophomore she was named the Avalanche-Journal’s All-City Pitcher of the Year. She’s managed to be just as effective despite the pitching rubber being moved back three feet, forcing her to adjust most of her repertoire to accommodate the distance.
Heinrich is 20-6 this season with 256 strikeouts in 158 innings. She’s walked only 26 batters and has a 1.02 ERA.
“She can throw multiple pitches for strikes and she’s able to get ahead of people,” Cooper coach Landon Winton said. “She’s got the full arsenal, so if one pitch is off, two or three are on.”
Few know that better than Cooper catcher Hannah Limmer, also a junior.
Limmer said Heinrich’s mental strength is what separates her from the pack.
“She just wants to go out and beat the crap out of everybody,” Limmer said. “She’s got the strength and she knows how to keep her composure and not be distracted by other things.”
Heinrich is so good, so often that Winton said he has tried to downplay what she does in the circle.
It would be easy for the defense to let down its guard in the middle of a Heinrich performance. Some games, like Cooper’s 10-0 victory against Shallowater on April 2, require little help from the defense.
Heinrich struck out 13 of the 16 batters she faced in that game, and there have been plenty more like it.
“You got to be on your toes because she’s not going to give you anything,” Winton said. “If you’re sitting back waiting for her to make a mistake you’re probably going to go back and sit in the dugout.”
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