Softball: Bower powers Huntley to best season ever
Lysle Bower remembers the moment vividly.
"Bri was 7 and we were watching the College World Series on TV," said Lysle Bower. "Bri was mimicking the pitchers' motion and seemed interested in pitching. I encouraged her to try it."
Bower decided to turn the basement into a pitchers circle. The rest is history.
Dominating in the circle for the travel and youth teams she played for, Briana Bower was the No. 2 pitcher for Huntley as a freshman. The Red Raiders, who lost to Barrington in the sectional finals, avenged that loss to the Fillies this year with a 6-1 win in Class 4A Hampshire sectional semifinals.
As a sophomore, Bower has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the state of Illinois.
The numbers she has compiled in 2019 are mind-boggling. Heading into this weekend's Class 4A state tournament, she is 25-5 with 338 strikeouts with only 28 walks in 197 innings pitched. The hard-throwing right-hander has given up 116 hits and has a 1.13 ERA. She pitched a perfect game against Belvidere and twirled no-hitters against St. Charles East, Dundee-Crown and Harlem. She has five 15-strikeout games.
Bower is the 2019 Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Captain.
"She has improved herself as a pitcher from last year," said Huntley coach Mark Petryniec. "She trusts her changeup this year and has had great success against some of the best teams in the state. She has had a phenomenal sophomore season and has stepped up as a leader. We are fortunate to have her for two more years."
Bower realized she needed to add another pitch to her repertoire this year.
"I really worked on my changeup and wanted it to be a pitch I could trust to throw in any count," said Bower. "I feel like I can throw my changeup for a strike at any time. It is a good pitch to keep the batter off stride."
Bower was at her best in Huntley's biggest game.
Playing 27-win Hersey in Monday's Barrington supersectional, Bower allowed the Huskies a run on 3 hits in the first inning. She settled down and blanked Hersey the rest of the way.
Striking out 14, Bower led the Red Raiders to a 3-1 win and a berth in the state semifinals. Huntley, playing at state for the first time, will play Marist at 5:30 p.m. Friday in East Peoria.
Hersey coach Molly Freeman was impressed with Bower.
"She is an excellent pitcher," said Freeman. "She has the most velocity of any pitcher we have faced this season and she throws a ton of strikes."
Petryniec has faith Bower will do well on the big stage this weekend.
"Bri is mature beyond her years," said Petryniec. "The highs are never too high and lows are never too low. She pitches with great composure and has a level head."
Bower has been recruited by Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Carolina State.
"Bri is a sophomore and we have time to make the decision on college," said Lysle Bower. "She just needs to keep working hard and the offers will be there."
Dundee-Crown coach Tracy Beatty is not looking forward to facing Bower for the next two years in Fox Valley Conference action.
"Bri not only threw harder this season compared to her freshman year but she hit her spots," said Beatty. "She did a great job of keeping hitters off stride. I see Bri getting stronger every year. Facing her the next two years will certainly be a challenge."
Hampshire coach Kelli Wasilewski is also impressed with Bower.
"Bri pitched behind Tiffany (Giese) last season (her freshman year)," said the Hampshire coach. "So, she had a lot more opportunity this year to really show her talent. She has a lot of speed and threw in her changeup just enough to really throw batters off their game. She's a pitcher you really need to have a game plan with when you enter the box because she's going to compete on every pitch.
"The thought of having to face her for two more years is frightening and exciting. She's already so powerful and dominant. I can't imagine how good she'll be with two more years of work put in. On the contrary, I always tell our girls, they are so lucky they get to face her twice a season. We don't get an opportunity to see pitching like that very often, so I ask them to look at it as a challenge to improve their own game. They have to work extra hard to be successful and put the bat on the ball for a base hit. We're excited for the challenge the next two years."