Or a riseball. Or a drobpball. Or a change-up. Or even a screwball. Be prepared. Most batters aren't.
McNeil might fire a fastball. But then again, she might throw a curve. Or a riseball. Or a drobpball. Or a change-up. Or even a screwball.
Be prepared physically – she’s going to throw it for a strike. And be prepared mentally – you’re likely to swing and miss.
McNeil proved quite confounding to opposing hitters last season. She finished with a 14-2 record, 0.59 ERA and 194 strikeouts in just 104 innings in leading the Knights into the Division II state semifinals.
And, oh yes, she was only a freshman. It’s no wonder she’s already receiving significant attention from major Division I programs.
“She throws a number of different types of breaking balls and they all move well,” says Hoban coach Mitch Wagner. “That makes it very hard for high school hitters when you can throw more than one breaking pitch consistently and can throw them at any point in the count for strikes. When you put it all together like that you have a pretty effective pitcher.”
McNeil began putting it all together at age nine when she started pitching and quickly embraced it. She wasted little time summoning the aid of a coach, who helped her develop a wide array of pitches.
Though she also participated in soccer, volleyball and basketball during her youth, those sports soon faded into the background and were eventually cast aside by McNeil. What was an immediate attraction to pitching became an obsession.
“I absolutely loved it right from the start,” says the 16-year-old sophomore. “I made my dad practice with me every day. I liked pitching because you’re in control and because of the 1-on-1 with the batter. I’m a competitor and I like that.”
The batters aren’t too crazy about it. McNeil established herself from the moment she stepped in the high school circle and has remained dominant. Such achievements might have seemed far-fetched to most freshmen, but it didn’t take McNeil long to gain her confidence at that level.
“I was a little surprised early on because I wasn’t familiar with how it all works,” she explains. “So I started pushing myself to be even better. Against some of the weaker teams, I pushed myself to think about and really concentrate on every pitch. At the beginning of the season I knew that the team had a chance to do well and we ended up taking it pretty far.”
Wagner was pleasantly surprised at her makeup on the mound so early in her high school career. Whereas other freshman might have become rattled behind in the count or with runners on base, McNeil toughened up and remained unafraid to throw even the most difficult pitches to control. She averaged just one walk per seven innings last season.
“She doesn’t get shaken out there,” Wagner says. “She was able last year to work through tough situations consistently.”
As for tough situations in her professional career, that might involve braces that aren’t straightening out teeth quite fast enough. McNeil yearns to be an orthodontist. In fact, the offering of a strong pre-dentistry program will be a prime consideration for her when she decides which school she will attend. And if it’s not a Division I school, so be it.
“I’ve definitely started to think seriously in the back of my mind about where I’m going to go,” she says. “I’m going to be looking at all the schools that offer my major. I’ve wanted to be an orthodontist forever. I’ve always liked it and I want to go into pre-dentistry in college. I started going to my orthodontist and he has a family business. It’s a good job and I always liked him.”
McNeil has her future all mapped out. But for now, she’s content to send batters back to the dugout shaking their heads in disbelief. They had no idea what pitch was coming.