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05/13/2023 09:06 AM

Benson Brings It In the Batter’s Box, Pitching Circle for Valley Softball

Valley Regional softball senior captain and pitcher Anna Benson is following up an All-Shoreline Conference Team selection as a junior by hitting well over .600 for her batting average while fanning several batters with 43 strikeouts on the mound this season. Photo courtesy of Anna Benson

Throughout her vast and various experiences with softball, Anna Benson knows the game can exercise someone’s brain as well as their brawn, and she has been a sound mind, steady arm, and consistent bat for the Valley Regional softball team in 2023.

The Warriors’ softball team senior captain and pitcher started sports with T-Ball at the age of 5 before also participating on the pitch with soccer at Valley. Anna, who was an All-Shoreline Conference Second Team selection last spring, is getting it done on both sides of the field–currently owning a .652 batting average with an on-base percentage of .750. Pitching wise, she currently has 40 strikeouts and a 3.75 earned-run average across 11 games for the 5-8 Warriors.

“I love how softball combines both competitiveness with the mental aspects and mentality of knowing exactly what to do when the ball comes to you,” says Anna, who also began taking pitching lessons in fifth grade up until this year. “I love pitching and the leadership part of it. The team relies a lot on you for confidence, and I love being part of every play because each one starts with me throwing the ball. The pitching lessons and the support of all of my teammates has really helped me.”

The slower nature of the sport can allow thoughts to creep into one’s mind during the quieter moments. Yet Anna explains that she does not trek down the trail towards overthinking and has her mind solely set on what she needs to do when all eyes become fixated on her, while holding an abrupt memory when it is advantageous to her and her squad.

“The mental game is important, because with the game being more slow paced, you can have down time to think. I just think about what my job is before every play,” Anna says. “It is such a good feeling when you record a strikeout, but it can be hard when you get into a rut where a team is getting hits off of you and trying to get out of a tough situation. I just focus on moving past each mistake quickly.”

Warriors’ softball skipper Olivia Whitehead knows that she has one of the best captains a coach could desire with Anna: an individual who gets it done on the diamond, holds herself and her teammates accountable, and is a constant voice of support to her peers.

“Anna is the sole senior of the group who is our fearless leader! She has taken on new roles and responsibilities this season, including her captain responsibilities and moving from the lead-off spot to being a power hitter in our lineup. She is our leading light as a talented pitcher and shows great success on the mound,” says Whitehead. “Anna is a dedicated student-athlete who puts her team first. She is a leader that her teammates look up to and strive to be like. She holds herself and her teammates to high expectations and has a knack for scaffolding instruction that best fits their needs. She is driven, dedicated, and has an amazing work ethic. She puts her teammates first and always has the right words of encouragement that keeps all their heads high when times get tough.”

Outsiders may observe that Anna could feel additional pressure by not only being the team’s top arm but also being the sole senior in a youthful dugout. She leans on and credits her co-captain through the tighter trials and tribulations while diving headstrong into her responsibilities.

“Being the only senior here, the girls look up to me even more, so I have embraced the captain role and tried to grow into it more,” says Anna. “I give the team pep talks before the games and also postgame talks on what we need to improve. I have relied on our other captain Riley Soares to help us get through tough moments.”

In such a chess match that is a high school softball game, each individual at-bat is a cerebral contest within itself, so Anna likes to take her time to feel out the opposing batter while using her diverse pawns of pitches and placing them in just the right slots of the strike zone.

“With pitching, both the type of pitches and the location of them are so important,” Anna says. “I have developed my fastball, my curveball, and my change-up, but I have worked a lot on my rise ball this year. Depending on the batter, I will mix up my pitches and adjust where I place the ball. I also play around with those things based upon the different scenarios of how many runners are on base.”

As Anna will look to venture into the science field by studying Biology at Northeastern University next year, she is still in the lab with her bat to continue her hitting prowess at the plate for the remainder of the spring. She adds that while the Warriors have had some growing pains as a younger team, they have begun to right the ship towards setting themselves up for success.

“This year, I am trying to prove myself more than last year and improve my hitting, and I am doing that pretty well so far this year with my batting average,” says Anna. “Having a young team has been difficult, but we have gotten our fitting recently. This team has a bright future to come. Playing here has had an incredible impact on me; I have gained valuable teammates and friends from my four years here that I am still close with today.”