Head softball coach Keith Medford has spent most of his tenure at Guyer with the luxury of having an unquestioned No. 1 pitcher in the circle, including former stars Kylee Crosek and Suzette Palmer, who combined to start at pitcher for seven seasons.
This season, Medford is discovering a new luxury when it comes to who toes the rubber for the Lady Wildcats.
Guyer (21-4) is ranked 25th in Class 4A, according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association, thanks largely to the success of two vastly different pitchers seeing ample time in the circle.
Junior lefty Shayne Starkey has started the majority of Guyer’s games, but sophomore righty Lauren Lindgren has 49 2/3 innings under her belt and is sporting a 2.26 ERA, often coming in to finish opponents off in the later innings.
“Obviously, one’s a righty and one’s a lefty, and I think the spin is just really different,” Medford said. “There’s really no rhyme or reason as to when I bring in Lauren. It’s totally a feel thing. I trust both of them.
“I wouldn’t call Shayne a power pitcher, but she’s more of one than Lauren is. And I wouldn’t call Lauren a finesse pitcher, but she’s more of one than Shayne is.”
Having both pitch early in the season has paid off for Medford, as Starkey has been suffering a nagging back injury that recently forced her to stay away from any activity for a week.
Since then, Starkey has felt better and her performances have shown that. She gave up a combined four runs in games against two of the top teams in a loaded District 5-4A — No. 20 Fort Worth Brewer and unbeaten No. 8 Azle, a win and loss, respectively.
On Tuesday night at Denton, Starkey’s outing proved to be nearly perfect as she tossed a no-hitter, walking three, in Guyer’s 7-0 win over the Lady Broncos.
“It felt good just to know I could do that,” said Starkey, who added that she felt good but the best she’s felt physically since the injury was in Guyer’s April 1 win over Brewer.
Starkey, who committed to West Texas A&M last year, said she always wants the ball, which is a mindset Medford said he likes his pitchers to have, but she’s OK with deferring to Lindgren from time to time.
“All I care about is the win,” Starkey said. “It’s nice to know that if I’m struggling, or if I’m hurt, that I can lean on her and know she can get the job done.”
While both players are in new roles this year, neither is a stranger to varsity competition. Last season, Lindgren started in right field, where she still plays when she isn’t pitching. This year, she’s hitting .397 and has the second-most RBIs on team with 27.
Starkey is hitting .468 with a team-high 30 RBIs and is second on the team with two homers. Last year as a sophomore, she spelled Palmer from time to time, but Palmer was a rock in the circle for Guyer. Starkey also was a full-time first baseman.
Lindgren said both throw the ball differently and complement each other by keeping opposing hitters off balance, with Starkey often seeing a hitter twice before Lindgren sees them in the later innings.
“She’s a little more sassy out there than I am and has more attitude,” Lindgren said. “She’s more intimidating and throws harder than I do. I mix it up a little more.”
Starkey said the two of them could give the team an advantage in the postseason when teams often play best-of-three series.
“I think it’s a huge advantage in the playoffs because we, as a team, know that both of us can get the job done,” Starkey said. “Say I throw the first game and get hit hard, then we can throw Lauren out there in the second game and give the team a whole new look.”
Even though Starkey is his more experienced pitcher with 100 2/3 innings on the season, Medford said he wouldn’t hesitate to use either in a high-leverage playoff situation.
“Not a bit,” Medford said. “I trust them both. They work so well together and complement each other really well, and they both have such great attitudes about it. I could use either one and be happy with it.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.