With shoulder pain subsiding, Colonels’ Peacoe dominating in the circle, with the bat

Posted: April 11, 2013

James Wood junior Kierstyn Peacoe is batting .400 with five RBIs, nine runs scored and three home runs while posting a 2.85 ERA over 37 innings with 33 strikeouts this season. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — The pain in her pitching shoulder, she could take.

The pain in her heart, she could not.

To say the least, last year was a frustrating one for Kierstyn Peacoe and her James Wood softball teammates.

Then a sophomore, Peacoe was in intense pain “95 percent of the time.” Colonels coach Ted McDaniel and her teammates knew from the first day of tryouts that her right shoulder was sore, but she refused to let anyone know just how badly it was bothering her.

In the midst of a season-ending six-game losing streak, Peacoe had to confess to one thing though.

“We were talking before practice one day, and she was almost tearing up,” said McDaniel while sitting in the James Wood softball bleachers during Wednesday’s practice. “She said, ‘I know this is all my fault, because I’m not doing my job.’ I said, ‘No, it’s not your fault.’”

Peacoe’s career shows that McDaniel has probably never been more right with any statement he’s made in his 13 years as the Colonels’ head coach.

As a freshman, Peacoe’s superlative pitching propelled James Wood to a 14-win season after back-to-back three-win campaigns. As a sophomore, she led James Wood in practically every offensive category.

As a junior, Peacoe’s once again doing it all as the team’s star pitcher and hitter. But her stats will never match up to how badly she cares for James Wood softball.

“She takes the whole team and puts it right on her back,” McDaniel said.

As well as her right shoulder. It’s the only way she knows how.

“I pitch because I do like to pitch, but the main reason I do it is because my team needs me,” said Peacoe, whose team is 4-4 after winning four of its last five games. “That’s basically it. I do what my team needs.”

For McDaniel, Peacoe — .400 five RBIs, nine runs, two doubles, three home runs, four walks, three stolen bases from the leadoff spot hitting; 371/3 innings pitched, 2.85 ERA, 33 strikeouts, 10 walks, 3-3 record with one save pitching in 2013 — has been practically everything he could have wanted since she enrolled at James Wood for the 2010-11 school year.

After seeing her pitch in eighth grade, McDaniel knew that Peacoe would more than be able to hold her own once she faced high school hitters, and that was definitely the case. In 101 innings pitched, she went 11-3 with 154 strikeouts and a 2.43 ERA as James Wood improved from 3-18 to 14-6-1 in 2011.

But during her sophomore year, it was clear that something was off.

Peacoe’s impressive ascension as a hitter continued in 2012. After hitting .429 with seven RBIs and eight runs as a freshman, she led the Colonels with 18 RBIs, 15 runs, three home runs and eight doubles while hitting .400 (second on the team).

But in the circle, Peacoe went 7-12 with 120 strikeouts in 1191/3 innings and a 3.17 ERA. Strong numbers that most pitchers would take to be sure — just not the numbers that softball followers expected out of someone so electric as a freshman.

Bottom line, Peacoe just wasn’t herself.

“Coach Ted would ask me all the time, ‘How’s your shoulder feel?’ And I would say, ‘Oh, it’s good, it’s good,’ with the whole ‘fingers crossed behind my back’ thing,” Peacoe said. “It really wasn’t good, but I didn’t want to feel like I let my team down. I knew I needed to do whatever it took to help us get a victory.”

Peacoe said the adrenaline of the moment helped her to block out some of the pain during games. But after games were over, it took everything she had to deal with the fire raging in her right shoulder.

“Sometimes I just wanted to cry,” Peacoe said.

As McDaniel said, she nearly did over the team’s fortunes — James Wood went from 7-8 to 7-14 in its losing skid — but she stayed brave and finished the season.

Peacoe did have her arm checked out after the season, and she says she has no major injury — her arm’s just worn out from all the pitching she’s done.

Peacoe — who started pitching at age 9 — said she’s actually been feeling some pain since she was 12 or 13, back when she would pitch three or four games in a day for her travel team. Combine that with a growing body, and losing complete range of motion and velocity is understandable.

Peacoe says she’s now feeling like her old self again.

For starters, James Wood is developing a couple of other pitchers in Victoria Armel and Taylor Rizzari in order to decrease Peacoe’s workload. And while it seems like high school softball pitchers are always throwing complete games, McDaniel will sometimes just pitch her a few innings in non-district games.

Peacoe is also paying special attention to her arm. She ices it every day, and for the last month, she’s been using an H-Wave instrument. The intent of the box-like device — which involves sending electrical stimulation through wires and adhesive pads that connect to her shoulder — is to improve circulation. Peacoe said her arm no longer feels as sore when she wakes up.

Hitting-wise, Peacoe just continues to keep getting better and better.

Her physical skills are impressive — McDaniel said she can play any position on the field, she’s the fastest runner on the team, and her six home runs over the last one-and-a-half seasons show how much power she can generate — but Peacoe said her mental approach is what’s truly grown.

Since starting her freshman season 0 for 8 — and temporarily being dropped from third to ninth in the order — Peacoe has had to remind herself that it’s important to be confident at the plate, but also important to realize that she can’t be perfect.

“I know last year if I struck out or grounded out, I’d get really frustrated with myself,” Peacoe said. “I had to realize that batting is 70 percent failure. I’m not going to get a hit every time. It’s not possible.

“I definitely think I’ve grown my inner self more than my physical capabilities.”

Opponents likely wish she’d tone done her physical gifts though. McDaniel moved Peacoe — the player he says he’d most want at the plate in a tight situation — to the leadoff spot this year because she gets on base more than anyone else.

“She really studies pitchers when she’s waiting to hit and can figure out what the pitcher’s going to throw her,” McDaniel said. “She’s gotten some very good hits off some very good pitchers.”

There have been numerous highlights, including her first-ever game with two home runs on April 4 against Skyline. The Hawks were without ace pitcher Sarah Beamer, but having such a powerful presence can lift any team.

“At Musselman [Monday] several girls on her travel team [the West Virginia Shockers] who play for Musselman turned and told the outfield to back up,” McDaniel said. “Her reputation of being a power hitter is out now. I think it helps her get singles too, because the balls could be caught at normal depth.”

Of course, all the individual exploits can’t make up for winning.

That’s why Peacoe’s performance against Loudoun County on April 3 stands out so much.

Having started 0-3 this year, James Wood was looking to break a nine-game losing streak dating back to last season. Peacoe was lifted from the circle with the Colonels ahead 7-4 after three innings, but with James Wood ahead 10-8, she reentered it after a leadoff single to start the seventh and retired the next three batters.

As Peacoe pointed out, the win was a total team effort. The hitters who put up 10 runs, the pitching of Armel and Rizzari, the defense that backed up the pitchers, they all contributed. But when the team needed someone to step up in the seventh, McDaniel said the big thing was that Peacoe was more than willing to pitch again.

“She very much cares about this team,” McDaniel said.

It won’t be easy with strong teams like Skyline and Sherando in the Northwestern District, but Peacoe can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Colonels.

“I’m very happy with this team’s attitude,” Peacoe said. “We get down in games, and it just fuels us to get back up and get some runs back.

“I definitely see a drive and heart in this team. I think this team has more heart than any team I’ve played on.”

With Peacoe on their side, it’s been hard not to have that feeling.

“She’s a really good hitter and pitcher, and she’s got a really postive attitude,” junior Sara Hoover said. “She brings us all up.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1