By Lisa Byers
Natalie Brock has spent much of her high school softball career in the background while pitchers like current Union City star Noelle Wienczkowski and former aces Arianna Hanley of Saegertown and Taylor Smith of Maplewood have captured the limelight.
Not anymore. In her senior season, Brock is making sure everyone knows just how good of a pitcher she is and has been the last four years.
Brock extended her scoreless streak to 21 innings and struck out at least 12 batters for the third time this season to lead Cochranton to a 2-0 win over Union City on Wednesday in its Region 3 opener at Cochranton High School.
“That’s Natalie being Natalie,” Cochranton coach Mark McGuire said. “I’ve coached some really good players over the years, but there is nobody who works harder at their craft that she does; no one.
“She rarely puts a softball down.”
While Brock has always been a solid pitcher, her forté has generally been pitching to contact and allowing her defense to make plays behind her. In fact, entering this season, Brock had walked just 21 of the 900 batters she faced her sophomore and junior years. She struck out an average of just 3.5 batters per game during those years.
Brock already has 37 strikeouts this season in three games.
“This is what I’ve been looking forward to all year,” Brock said.
Silencing the Bears was no easy task. Union City has consistently fielded teams with big, powerful bats. But against Brock on Wednesday, the Bears, with the exception of the third inning, couldn’t get anything going.
Cochranton (3-0, 1-0 Region 3) scored all the runs it needed in the first inning. With two outs, Mackenzie Hawley and Sam Kinter drew back-to-back walks. Hawley scored on a single by Katy Dunn that allowed Kinter to advance to third. Kinter scored the final run on a wild pitch.
Union City threatened to cut into that deficit in the third inning with a little small ball. Tori Migliacco led off the inning with a bunt single and Hayley Patchen reached on a grounder misplayed by Brock. Carly Williams hit a fielder’s choice, but Migliacco beat the throw to third base to load the bases.
A relatively solid bunting team, Union City coach Frank Snyder chose to take a gamble and put on the suicide squeeze. The squeeze failed as Migliacco was tagged out at the plate for the second out. Brock fanned the next batter for the third out.
“We definitely did our job with the bunt game,” Snyder said. “Then, of course I look like an idiot with the (suicide) squeeze.”
“(Today) is a new day. We go to Saegertown. Hopefully, we can move on.”
Union City (2-1, 0-1) did scatter five hits, just two of which left the infield, including a double by Courtney Brumagin.
Dunn had two hits for Cochranton.