Westberry posts a banner year in the circle

Posted 6/23/22

There are tons of statistics in the sporting world. For the typical fan, statistics capture the basics – the hits, runs and errors – of a game. There are notable exceptions. 

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Westberry posts a banner year in the circle

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There are tons of statistics in the sporting world. For the typical fan, statistics capture the basics – the hits, runs and errors – of a game. There are notable exceptions. 

On occasion there is a long “stats line” which is simply remarkable. The pitching line of Mineola’s Anna Westberry for her 2021-22 season at Texas A&M Texarkana is one such stats line. It reads:

App     W      L      IP         H       ER     BB     K        ERA

32       24     6      186.1     103   32    30      200     1.20

For clarity: App = appearances, W = wins, L = losses, IP = innings pitched, H = hits, ER = earned runs, BB = bases on balls, K = strike outs, ERA = earned run average.

The telltale value in the above line is earned run average. It is the average of earned runs allowed by a pitcher per nine innings pitched. An ERA of 1.20 puts a pitcher in an elite category, regardless of the level of play. 

Two other numbers literally jump off the above line. Amassing 200 strike-outs against collegiate competition is an incredible commentary on the power, discipline and placement which a pitcher musters. 

Overlooked in the individual statistics is the most easily identifiable mark of success – wins and losses. In softball, it is the measure of the team. Westberry led the ’22 Eagles to a 43-14 record, a Red River Conference championship and a berth in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) regional tournament.

The road to such a record likely began in a pasture of Keith and Maria Westberry’s property some years ago. It was there that Anna Westberry began to pitch. 

As she and her father, Keith, explained, after innumerable pitches from the same position, her lead foot would form a divot in the soil. “There were divots all over the pasture,” Keith recounted.

It was a telling comment about the desire and commitment which Anna honed through her youth. 

She related that it was while watching University of Texas pitching legend Cat Osterman that she made up her mind. “I didn’t know what it was, but I saw her pitch and I knew I wanted to do THAT. I was too young to realize how much work was required, but I knew I wanted it.”

What followed was growing up in travel leagues, playing in tournaments as far away as Colorado and California. The process of growing up required overcoming doubts and finding alternative outlets from other activities such as cross country or band. 

But it was pitching the softball which stuck.  

Although he quickly pointed out that he had never acted as her pitching coach, Keith had a collegiate baseball pitching career at Tarleton State. It was obvious that he shared his daughter’s passion for the diamond. 

“We took breaks between seasons and between competitions, but the skill of pitching is a repetitive craft…” her father stated. Anna finished his sentence, “so you have to do it all the time.” 

A stellar high school career led to a commitment to play for Southeastern Louisiana State, where she pitched for a year and a half.  Searching out a better fit for her talent, the softball program and the educational opportunities, Anna transferred this past season to Texas A&M Texarkana.

Her skills had matured markedly from scholastic to collegiate ranks. She highlighted, “My demeanor changed; I learned composure.” 

She explained the clarity of thought which has come to define her pitching. “When I am in the circle, nothing else matters. Only that pitch, at that moment, on that day matters.” 

“I am so proud when I hear her say that,” her father added, “That is what pitching is.”

Westberry throws the ball with force – on a good day at about 64 mph. She is quick to explain, however, that pitching is so much more than velocity.

“You have to use every ounce of your body to produce the pitch you desire to throw,” she explained, “that includes movement and placement as well as velocity.”

Her intense focus led the Eagles to the Red River Conference Championship. The distinctions began to roll in – NAIA All-American recognition, first team all-conference selection and recording of the tenth-best ERA in the NAIA.

She speaks with a healthy sense of pride in her present team.

“We had to overcome many obstacles, in a very competitive conference, to realize success,” she said. 

Westberry also noted that the ’22 Eagles played with a hard, gritty edge.

“No team looked forward to facing us,” she shared.   

Westberry credited many others who have had an influence on her success. Teammate Dorrie Cormier taught her the intense focus required, her late childhood friend Katie Courtney gave her examples of grit and passion, and her pitching coaches Benny Jones, Thomas Matulis and Courtney McCasland taught her the art of pitching. 

Mike Catron was integral in assimilating Westberry into the travel leagues as well as connecting her with Southeastern Louisiana University. Westberry also mentioned the fine examples provided her by Lindale elementary school teacher Deanna Drew and Mineola high school science teacher Deborah Armstrong.

The future is bright for the powerful lefthander. She will be returning next year for her junior athletic year and anticipates splitting starts with fellow junior Mackenzie Vittitow.

Westberry’s recommendation for youngsters is straightforward. “If you love it, whatever it is, don’t give it up. Just have fun and love the game.”