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QUEEN OF THE K: Redbank Valley Junior Pitcher Mackenzie Foringer Snaps School’s Career Strikeout Record

NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (EYT/D9) — When Mackenzie Foringer was just nine years old, she attended her first softball pitching clinic.

“That looks pretty cool,” she thought. “I want to do that.”

She was hooked. Everything about the position called out to her, beckoned her to live her softball life in the circle.

So she picked up a ball, windmilled her right arm and delivered her first pitch.

It didn’t go so well. Not for a while.

“I wasn’t very good,” said Foringer, now a junior on the Redbank Valley softball team, with a laugh. “I really had to just dedicate myself to it.”

Foringer did just that. She kept working at the craft, putting in hours on her mechanics. Developing pitches. Deep diving into the finer points of pitching.

She couldn’t see herself playing any other position again.

“I just love being able to help my teammates in any way I can,” Foringer said. “I love being able to strike someone out. I just love doing it so much. I don’t even know why I love it so much. I just do.”

Over the years, Foringer gotten better and better.

As a freshman, she was handed the ball to be Redbank Valley’s primary — and virtually only — pitcher. Same thing as a sophomore as she helped the Bulldogs ride a late-season surge to make the playoffs.

This year, Foringer is again shouldering the entire pitching load.

In a 1-0 loss to Curwensville on Tuesday afternoon, Foringer was locked in a pitching duel with Addison Siple, one of the best pitchers in the state. She matched the Golden Tide hurler pitch for pitch.

In the process, Foringer made Redbank Valley history, breaking the career strikeout record.

When Foringer was throwing her first pitches eight years ago, Alyssa Burkett was piling up 335 strikeouts in her career for the Bulldogs. She graduated in 2016.

“I had this goal to break this record since freshman year,” Foringer said. “I was just hoping to get it by my senior year, so to get it during my junior year is just really good to see. I’m really proud of that.”

Foringer now has a chance to put that record far out of reach to anyone who follows her. She has the remainder of this season and next year still to go to add to her prodigious strikeout total of 343 after Wednesday’s game.

But her mentality when she takes the ball isn’t to strike out every batter.

Her goal is to simply make good pitches and get outs — no matter how they come.

“I just want to make sure I’m throwing strikes,” Foringer said. “I just want to make good pitches and keep them from getting hits off of me.”

But there’s nothing like a strikeout, Foringer says with a soft chuckle, and she has certainly gotten them in bunches.

When she was a freshman, Foringer had only two pitches — a fastball and screwball. She’d mix in a changeup now and then, but she heavily relied on those two offerings.

Now she has six pitches she is comfortable throwing in any count: the fastball and screwball to go with a changeup, curveball, drop and rise.

Her screwball is still one of her go-to pitches. But the others have helped bail her out from time to time, too.

“My drop ball has been working a lot this season,” Foringer said. “I’ve worked really hard on it. I’d say that is my No. 1 right now.”

Foringer said developing all those pitches was no easy task.

And it’s still a work in progress.

“I’ve really worked in open gyms,” she said. “I’ve gone to pitching clinics to prepare me. It’s just been a lot of hard work and not missing practices.”

Foringer has also spent a lot of time working on increasing the spin and movement on her offerings.

That’s a must in softball these days, especially in the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference and in District 9 where lineups are stacked with dangerous hitters.

“I’ve worked a lot on my spins to get the ball to really move, especially this past year,” Foringer said. “These past couple of years, I didn’t really have a lot of spin on my ball. I worked really hard this summer to get my spins down so I can have some movement on my pitches.”

It’s worked. Facing tough lineup after tough lineup, Foringer has struck out 121 this season in 116⅔ innings. She’s 9-10 with a 3.96 ERA and has pitched every inning of every game for Redbank.

She’s been especially effective over her last seven starts, striking out 50 in 44⅓ innings and posting a 2.38 ERA.

Redbank Valley has been snakebitten this season. The Bulldogs have lost six games by one run, including a 9-8 setback on Wednesday afternoon at home against Moniteau.

“It’s tough to lose all of those close games,” Foringer said. “It’s hard to not get down on yourself at some point. But just remembering our season isn’t done and we still have playoffs, I think that’s really been helping us push forward and just move on to the next one.”

Foringer sees the postseason as a way to hit the reset button and forget all of those close defeats.

It also helps knowing that Redbank Valley could just as easily be 15-4 than 9-10 had just a few things gone its way.

“We definitely think we’re better than our record,” she said.

Foringer is also a dangerous hitter at the top of the Bulldogs’ deep lineup that features speed and power, led by Quinn White, who has put up gaudy numbers this season as the cleanup hitter.

Foringer is happy she doesn’t have to face her own teammates.

“I’m happy about not having to pitch against Quinn, for sure,” she said, laughing. “Quinn and I are both very competitive. We get pretty serious whenever I have to pitch against her at practice.”

There’s plenty of potent lineups Foringer has to contend with other than her own.

That makes her even more proud of her strikeout record.

“There are a lot of tough hitters, so being able to get this record and as many strikeouts as I do, it’s just amazing,” Foringer said. “I’m so proud that I’ve been able to make it this far. I’ve worked so hard for this and there are a lot of amazing softball players in this league. Accomplishing this just means a lot.”