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Woodlan's Robbins love pressure of spotlight

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She's News-Sentinel Softball Player of the Year

Friday, July 13, 2012 - 2:53 am

Hannah Robbins' biggest dream is to be on the mound next June in the state championship game. Maybe her Woodlan softball team will be protecting a slim lead or tied, facing a big-hitting club with the game on the line.

Will she be nervous? Maybe a little scared? Will her heart be trying to pound its way out of her chest?

Not likely.

"I love competition and pressure," the Warriors junior pitcher says. "A lot of people struggle with that, but I love it. It's something I've always loved. I love being the person in that situation that nobody else wants to be in."

The bigger the moment, usually the bigger Robbins plays, which is why she's The News-Sentinel PrepSports Softball Player of the Year. She had a 29-2 record this spring with a .50 earned run average and 19 shutouts. She gave up only 29 walks with 322 strikeouts in 195 innings, allowing 30 runs total, of which 14 were earned. She gave up only 92 hits all season.

This year she improved on her change-up and rise ball, also getting stronger by getting a gym membership. Her goals for next year are to continue improving those two pitches and work on her hitting where she had a .355 average this year with nine doubles and 26 runs batted in.

By the time she graduates next year, Woodlan coach Barry Ehle said, "she's probably going to be at a point where the next Hannah Robbins isn't here yet. She's been good since she's been a freshman and she's gotten better each year."

As a freshman, Robbins and the Warriors played in the semistate title game before losing to the eventual state champion. During her sophomore year, the Warriors lost the Class 2A state title game. This spring, Woodlan moved up to Class 3A and again lost the semistate title game to the eventual state champion.

This year Woodlan also beat Class 1A state champion Lakewood Park Christian, twice beat Class 2A state finalist Adams Central and Class 4A state finalist Huntington North during the regular season.

"She is the reason we are at the level that we are at to be able to compete against those teams," Ehle said.

In large part because Robbins loves the challenge of those big moments when she's the calmest player on the field.

"It's just something that I've always loved," she said. "I guess I kind of like the spotlight, too. It's really nothing that I learned. I've just always been that way. In gym class I would always try to beat everybody at everything because that's just the way I am."

So are a number of her teammates, most of whom have played together since they were 8 or 9 years old. That's when Robbins became a pitcher. She knew she wanted to play softball, and her father was the coach.

"We didn't have a pitcher, so my dad said, 'Guess what?'" Robbins said.

The thing was, though, Jim Robbins helped his daughter by reading every book on pitching, attending clinics and buying and watching every softball video ever produced. Now he's the Woodlan assistant coach in charge of pitching.

"He has done so much for me," Hannah said. "Usually I get all the credit, but he has taught me everything I know."

Now, most fathers of teen-age daughters might be shocked, but the Robbins don't have a picture-perfect relationship all the time. He pushes her, she sometimes pushes back. He wants to work on pitching all the time, she wants to go the mall.

Hannah says they are probably too much alike, but somehow they make it work.

"We definitely have had our fights," she said with a laugh. "Our whole thing is try to treat each other like a player and treat him like a coach. That's definitely where I get my competitive spirit."

This is an example of how competitive that spirit is: Robbins has five or six pitches in her repertoire, but she doesn't count a fastball among them. In fact, she HATES throwing a fastball, maybe because that means she's giving in to the hitter.

"The only time I'll throw a fastball is when there's a 3-0 count and nobody swings that pitch anyway," she said with a dismissive flip.

No, of course not, because that's when every hitter thinks they have the advantage and the pressure is all on the pitcher.

Little do they know.