Melissa McCormick started pitching when she was 9, and for most of her years in the circle, she has been smaller and younger than her opponents.
The smaller part hasn’t changed much for the 5-foot-4-inch Palo Verde hurler, but at least she’s no longer younger than the batters she’s facing.
McCormick, who thrived in 18-and-under leagues as a 14-year-old and one of the top high school pitchers in Southern Nevada the past three years, is finally a senior and eager to lead the Panthers back to the state tournament.
“I was always the small kid. I still am, but now I know how to use that as an advantage,” said McCormick, a three-time first-team all-state selection who helped the Panthers to the Sunset Region title and a berth in the state semifinals last year.
McCormick was 26-10 with a 1.25 ERA and 326 strikeouts in 235 innings last year.
“She works hard,” coach Kelly Glass said. “If she doesn’t pitch in practice, she goes home and throws, and she’s just never satisfied.”
McCormick throws six pitches — riseball, dropball, curve, screwball, fastball and change-up — and shows equal command of all of them.
“I realized when I was younger that my speed wasn’t always going to be like the older kids’,” said McCormick, who has signed to play next year at Towson University near Baltimore. “I had to grow stronger, and I focused on my spins and movement pitches.”
And she’s always trying to learn. When not playing, she’s often watching other teams.
“We’re constantly talking about the game,” said Glass, who was a standout outfielder at New Mexico. “She knows more about the game. I’m not a pitching coach, but I taught her strategy.”
McCormick has a chance to achieve 1,000 strikeouts in her career. She enters this season with 737 in 544 innings.
She also is a big weapon at the plate, batting .562 with 22 extra-base hits and 44 RBIs last season.
“It’s nice to have a threat like that,” Glass said.
The challenge to repeat will be difficult for the Panthers, who lost key seniors catcher Erika Stratton and shortstop Lauryn Stover to graduation.
But with McCormick anchoring a lineup heavy on potential, the Panthers will have a weapon opponents only wish they had.
“We have so much more talent this year, so much young talent,” McCormick said. “The bar is raised so high. Why not raise it even more before I leave?”
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5230.In-depth high school sports coverage
PLAYERS TO WATCH
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Basic: Lacey Romo
Bonanza: Emily Osborn
Boulder City: Karlee Koopman
Centennial: Mikayla Djordjevic
Cheyenne: Rachel Holly
Cimarron-Memorial: Carrie Sheehan, Hannah Williams
Clark: Jasmine Fukuda, Anna Jaehn
Coronado: Morgan Yuhas
Desert Oasis: Lenzi Cram, Emily Heinz
Durango: Samantha Juarez
Faith Lutheran: Maya Barnes
Legacy: Danielle Pick, Sierra Pico
Liberty: Francesca Foti, Megan Patras
Palo Verde: Melissa McCormick
Rancho: Aly Lamboo, Amber Marlett
Silverado: Riana Splinter
Spring Valley: Georgi DeLio
Tech: Amanda Roark
Valley: Mickayla Romero, Jasmine Villamar