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STRIKEOUT MACHINE: Forest Area Senior Izzy Flick Fans 21 as Fires Pick Up Big Win With 3-2 Victory Over Keystone

TIONESTA, Pa. (EYT/D9) — After each inning, Forest Area left fielder Ava Best ran up to pitcher Izzy Flick with an update.

“That’s three strikeouts,” Best said.

After the next inning: “That’s six strikeouts,” Best announced. 

And the next: “That’s nine strikeouts.”

(Pictured above, Izzy Flick)

By the end of the fifth inning, Flick had fanned 15. After six, it was 18. The senior was well aware of what was at stake in the seventh in a tight game against Keystone on Thursday afternoon.

Getting a win was prime in her thoughts. But then there was the prospect of accomplishing one of the rarest things in softball, especially in the modern era with the circle pushed back three feet.

Every out by strikeout.

Flick did just that — 21 outs, 21 Ks — in a 3-2 win by the Fires over the Panthers.

“When I knew every single out was a strikeout, I was freaking out,” Flick said. “You could tell was fired up that last inning. I was throwing a lot of balls.”

Everything was working for Flick, especially her curveball. She was dropped that pitch on the outside corner at will against Keystone. Her fastball also had life, and the Panthers were late on her offerings all game.

Still, things were very much in the balance in the top of the seventh as Flick was touched for two runs in the frame on a two-run hit by Ryleigh Dittman. But she worked around three singles and a walk with strikeouts to end the game and give Forest a very important win.

“Any win is a good thing,” said Forest coach Eric Flick, who is also Izzy’s father. “You can’t take away from the pitching she did tonight.”

It’s a very promising sign for Izzy, who has scuffled this season.

She continues to battle a troublesome hip issue that rears its ugly head from time to time. She was also beset by a painful blister on the sole of her left foot that affected her during a few starts, especially one at Moniteau two weeks ago when she was nearly in tears in the circle.

Izzy soldiered on, trying to regain the form that made her one of the top hurlers in District 9 for Forest Area — a co-op of East and West Forest and North Clarion — for the last two seasons.

“My team relies on me. Everyone looks up to me to do it,” Izzy said. “I just knew I had to do it, even if it meant I had to be in pain the whole time. I just pushed through it and tried my best.”

Izzy has been her old self in her last two outings. She went six innings in a win against Kane, giving up zero earned runs, in a 7-5 victory.

Against Keystone, she was dialed in like never before, giving up two runs on five hits and walking just one to go with those 21 strikeouts. She has lowered her ERA to 4.28 and now has 65 Ks in 50⅔ innings.

“It’s a relief,” Izzy said. “I struggled a lot during the beginning. My hip started to hurt recently, but I’ve been taking extra time to stretch out my legs before the game and everything’s good.”

It’s the best she’s felt all season. And it has shown.

“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Coach Flick said. “She worked hard. She does everything she possibly can to fight through any situation. She’s just a warrior when it comes to getting out there and playing.”

Izzy’s resurgence has coincided with the team’s rebound from a disheartening stretch where the Fires lost six of seven games from April 10 through April 25.

Forest has now evened its record to 6-6 with the wins over Kane and Keystone the last two days.

With a lineup of heavy hitters like Faith Dietrich, Alexis Oswald and Izzy herself — she’s batting .310 at the top of the lineup — Forest could be a team no one wants to see in the postseason.

“We’re just hoping to win most of our games or maybe even win out and end up with a decent record,” Coach Flick said. “If we can get our bats a little more consistent, we can do well.”