Settling the Score: Satellite Star Sets Sights On State Return
By Robert Hughes // April 15, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY • SATELLITE BEACH, FLORIDA – As she winds up to pitch, Carleigh Fales pokes her right elbow out a bit as if she’s reaching for a six-shooter at her side.
Tall and intense, the pinkish ribbon in her hair makes her no less intimidating than a gunslinger facing down an opposing batter. Her results speak for themselves.
Going into tonight’s 7 p.m. Class 4A District 8 tournament opener at Satellite High School, the senior pitcher for the Scorpions softball team had a 10-5 record, with a 1.58 ERA and 144 strike outs in 124 innings pitched. She also is batting.400 this season with a homer and 15 RBIs.
Unfortunately, the Wild West analogy can be carried further for Fales, as she’s a bit of an “outlaw” in these here parts, because she’s been firing off some pitches deemed illegal by the lawmen otherwise known as umpires.
Illegal pitches aren’t uncommon in softball, as a pitcher must drag her foot without lifting it through her motion even as she puts all her strength into a pitch. It can be difficult to avoid an entire game, and difficult to detect.
But for Fales, the illegal-pitch situation came to head at the worst possible time last year, when the Scorpions were in the state 3A championship game.
In that state final, the senior was called for an incredible 14 illegal pitches after going the entire season without getting “more than a few” in any game, according to her coach.
Since the penalty for such pitches changes strikes to balls and advances runners, the obstacle was too big, and Satellite lost the title game 10-3.
So you could throw a redemption theme into Fales’ gunfighter tale, but she’s quick to say that’s not her driving force.
“We’re expecting to get back to state again this year,” Fales said.
And her coach, Andy Crooks, has many reasons to echo that confidence, starting with what he saw in that title game last year.
“The girls were fantastic about (the game), really,” he said. “We came out of that game pumped.”
Fales has signed to play at Indian River State College next year and rules allow that she can work with that school’s pitching coach, Christine Cochrane, now.
But illegal pitches aren’t even on the radar during their workouts.
“She’s never mentioned illegal pitches,” Fales said. “We just work on mechanics.”
Crooks said he hasn’t given illegal pitches “a thought” — at least, that is, until a certain reporter “had to bring it up right now.”
“It’s all about mechanics,” he said. “We’re trying to get her to keep her front side down when she pitches, and that might help.”
On Yonder Pitching Rubber Stands A Gunslinger
The Scorpions have their focus on the present, as their undefeated record and No. 2 state 4A ranking attest.
But Fales also has to be looking forward to the fall.
The youngest of Randy and Dianne Fales’ six daughters, Carleigh will be following the footsteps of her sister, Courtney, who played both for the Scorps and IRSC, so she feels comfortable about heading to the Fort Pierce campus in August.
She also knows college ball is a whole different game.
“Yeah, I know how it will be,” Fales said. “You wake up, you lift weights, go to practice, work out some more, then it’s study hall, maybe eat and then sleep and then do it all over again.”
Crooks was more succinct.
“It’s almost like a job,” he said. “It’s a fun job, and it’ll get her places, but it’s a job.” In college, “everybody’s going to be a better hitter. There is no bottom of the lineup.”
Crooks’ job is to get his senior-laden team back where they were last year. This year, that has meant trying players at new positions.
“With our position changes, we’re still a work in progress,” he said. “We’ve had some good wins, but we’re still not playing our best yet. Of course, that can be a good thing: That’s what happened last year.”
There’s one position he’s not concerned with, however.
On yonder pitching rubber stands a gunslinger.