Veteran Pitchers Return For Mean Green

DENTON, Texas (9/16/11) - For the just the second time in school history, the North Texas softball team is returning three pitchers from the previous season. Junior Brittany Simmons and sophomores Ashley Kirk and Lauren Poole make up the letterwinners in the current pitching squad. Newcomer Madison Thompson joins the mix and gives pitching coach Lisa Ferguson a few different options.

Kirk returns for her second year in the circle after taking a medical redshirt year in 2010. As a redshirt freshman, she had one of the most impressive seasons for a Mean Green pitcher last year. She led the pitching staff with 11 wins and 158 strikeouts. In the record book, she tied for fourth in wins in a single-season, set NT's single-season strikeout record and was one of only four Mean Green pitchers in school history to record 100 strikeouts in a single season.

The Round Rock native sat down for a question-and-answer session following practice this week.

How is the season going so far?
"I think it is going well. We are just working on individual sessions, no team stuff yet. All of the pitchers have looked good. I'm excited to get playing in October."

What did you do during the summer?
"I coached my little sister's team. I was in charge of the pitchers so I called the pitches and was showing them how to hit their spots, to make the ball move and to not leave it over the plate. She is fifteen. At that age, you start teaching them not to leave it over the plate."

What are your goals for the season?
"To come back and do well. Not to have the nervousness that I had last year.  It is a completely different game from high school. Last year was my first year to play so I was nervous about the hitters because I know they are a lot better."

What is different about this year?
"This year, I already know what you have to do to make it happen. So, that takes that variable out of it. That takes a lot of the pressure off. You know what to expect. That is what really helps me.  Just to remember that I have been there and done that, and I know I can make it through."

What does Madison Thompson, the freshman pitcher, add?
"She adds a different style. She has good movement, decent velocity and a different style. She has a completely different look than the three of us. That will help her a lot because she will throw batters off with the way she throws."

What else do you want to improve?
"Not thinking so much. I overthink everything."

What would you like to do after you graduate?
Teach high-school Spanish and coach.

Can you tell us about your major?
"As far as Spanish goes, I think I have after this semester, just four more classes to go. I am almost ready to go. And then I have to take care of the education classes and student teaching."

How are you going to balance student teaching and softball?
I am going to have to do it in the fall. Hopefully, if I can get all my stuff taken care of this year and maybe take some summer school classes, I can student teach in the fall of next year. If not, I can do it my fifth year.

During my fifth year, I could start on my master's. I am thinking Spanish. If I didn't teach, I could go into something else. I would technically be bilingual at that point to so I could do a bunch of things with that."

Why Spanish?
"I'm good at. That sounds conceited, but I have always done well in all my Spanish classes. I got my first B this past semester but it was an on-line grammar class so I had to self-teach myself and it was during the season so it was hard to balance all that. I have never made anything less than an A in any Spanish class besides that one. I learn it well, I understand it. It's just the speaking part that is tough sometimes.

It's interesting to me. And I like the culture that goes along with it."

Do you use the language outside of school?
"I really don't use it outside of class. If I am flipping through the channels, and I see the Spanish channel, I'll watch it for a little bit to see if I know what is going on. I don't get to practice speaking it because there is no one around me that understands it."

How much do you understand when watching?
"About 85 percent. There's a few words that you don't learn in school, but I can pick up the context of the sentence."

Have you visited any Spanish-speaking countries?
"I would love to go to Spain. I will probably end up going to the Aztec ruins and Mexico City first."

Ashley Kirk and the North Texas softball team opens its fall season on October 8 when it faces Texas A&M and Sam Houston in College, Station, Texas.



North Texas Mean Green