Regan Green’s mother teases her, says her neck will get sore from watching the batters hit her pitches in college.
For four years, Green strained the necks of high school hitters as they watched her pitches scream past.
The Laurel right-hander left a trail of statistics and memorable performances that will become part of the lore of Delaware high school softball. A perfect game in a DIAA state final. Two state championships. A career ERA of 0.70, and a career average of 14.2 strikeouts per seven innings.
So even though the Bulldogs came up short in their bid for a three-peat, Green was a clear choice as The News Journal’s Softball Player of the Year. The senior’s contribution in the dugout was as important as her work in the pitcher’s circle.
“I became a better leader on the team,” she said. “You usually think of the pitcher as one of the leaders, but I had never really been in that spot because of the seniors that we’ve had. This year, I had to step up to it.”
Laurel (18-3) was attempting to become only the second team to win three consecutive DIAA softball titles. Caravel, the only school to do it with four straight from 1999-2002, eliminated the Bulldogs in the semifinals. Green took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but the Buccaneers rallied and won 3-1 in eight innings.
Afterward, the Caravel players knew they had beaten one of the greatest pitchers in the state’s history.
“It was awesome,” Buccaneers pitcher Holly Brooks said. “That was a great game of softball. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
After thrilling their fans and winning all the close ones for more than two years, the Bulldogs’ luck finally ran out.
“That was an amazing ride for those girls, something they will never forget,” said Jodi Green, who doubles as Regan’s mother and Laurel’s coach. “I don’t think they were ever cocky. They might have been confident, but not cocky.
“It’s humbling, because you realize how close that line is. We could have lost [in the first two years]. We had some close games, extra-inning games, and it was a team effort.”
Regan split the pitching duties with her older sister, Logan, during her freshman season, when the Bulldogs went 14-6 and lost to eventual champion Sussex Tech in the DIAA quarterfinals.
The Green sisters divided the pitching again during Regan’s sophomore season, with Logan typically handling the first three or four innings before Regan finished in relief. But Regan started and took it all the way in the state championship game, striking out 15 and pitching a perfect game in a 3-0 victory over Polytech.
Logan graduated and went to Jacksonville State (Alabama), where she went 14-5 with a 2.36 ERA as a sophomore this spring. So Regan’s innings in the circle increased dramatically as a junior, from 67 in each of her first two years to 139.
She was more than ready, striking out 269 batters and ringing up a 0.50 ERA. She took another perfect game into the seventh inning against Caravel in the state final, before the gritty Buccaneers got a couple of hits, loaded the bases and brought the winning run to the plate.
Then Regan turned it up a notch. Her 12th and 13th strikeouts of the day popped into the mitt of catcher Sara Jo Whaley, and the Bulldogs celebrated their second straight championship with a 3-0 victory.
“She’s fantastic,” then-Caravel coach Randy Johnson said of Regan. “She’s probably a better person than she is a pitcher, which is pretty amazing.”
Most of the town of Laurel made the 40-mile drive to Polytech to see their team repeat.
“It’s just an amazing experience to have your town out there supporting you,” Regan said. “It’s nice to look out there and see a huge crowd in the outfield and in the stands. You know everybody in the town wants you to do well.”
Her following continued to grow this season, as fans went out of their way to watch the senior one more time. She didn’t disappoint, striking out 269 again in 116 innings (an average of 16.2 per seven-inning game) and registering a 0.36 ERA.
“It’s been nice,” Jodi Green said. “After the games, people have come up to Regan and said, ‘I’d heard about you, and I wanted to see you pitch.’ That’s kind of nice, when people make a trip like that. They don’t have any relation to anybody on the team, and they just wanted to come and watch her throw the ball. That always makes her feel good.”
Now it’s time for the next step, and it will be a giant one. Regan has signed to pitch at Mississippi State, part of the nation’s best college softball league. Five teams from the Southeastern Conference reached the eight-team College Softball World Series this season, including national champion Florida.
Mississippi State went 36-21 overall, but just 10-14 in the SEC. The leap in competition will be immense.
“It’s going to be very hard. It’s going to challenge me,” Regan said. “It’s going to make me push harder and work harder. I’ve faced a lot of the players that are in the SEC throughout the years with my travel-ball team. They’re the best players in the country, and I know it’s going to be hard.”
Regan pitches during the summer for Lady Lightning Gold from East Bend, North Carolina, a team that travels nationwide. At that level, she is used to seeing her pitches get hit.
“When you’re striking out everybody, it’s kind of hard to motivate yourself, push yourself,” she said. “You just have to keep that main goal in mind, that I’m going to pitch in college. Travel ball is a big help with that. It makes me realize I have to push harder.”
She is working on a changeup that will be vital in college, but she didn’t throw it often in high school because it allowed some batters to catch up to the ball. Her control is impressive (just 41 walks in 389 high school innings), but she has come to see that setting up hitters and moving the ball around is important.
“She used to think she had to throw just strikes,” Jodi Green said. “She has realized that when she’s 0-2, she doesn’t need to give the batter anything to hit on the next couple of pitches. She needs to make them chase something.”
Regan also was one of Laurel’s top hitters, batting .436 with five homers and 18 RBIs this spring. But she will always be known for making hitters chase – and miss – her blazing fastball.
“We all tried our best,” she said. “We worked harder this year than we worked any other year. We just started off with less experience than we’ve had, so it was a little bit harder. But we came a long way.”
It was a magical ride in Laurel, and Regan Green was right in the center of it.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ
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