Kingman: Whittell’s first switch fielde | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Kingman: Whittell’s first switch fielde

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune George Whittell High School shortstop Anna Kingman just misses the tag of a North Tahoe baserunner stealing second recently at Lampe Park in Gardnerville.

By Jeremy Evans

Tribune staff writer

When Hawthorne softball coach George Winters faced Whittell earlier this season, he noticed something different about the Warriors’ lineup. Not only was Anna Kingman, the reigning Northern 2A MVP, playing first base instead of her customary shortstop position, her glove was on the wrong hand.

“I went up to Lindsay (Wines) after the game and said, ‘Is that Anna, because she looks like she’s playing left-handed,'” Winters recalled. “And it was. She was already good enough right-handed, but I imagine she’s not too bad left-handed either. I was pretty surprised by it.”

When Winters faces the Warriors on Saturday, he’s going to be surprised again. Not only will Kingman be playing left-handed, she will be a left-handed shortstop.

“There are left-handed shortstops. It does happen, but you gotta be pretty good to do it,” Winters said. “I would guess she’s good enough to do it. It should be interesting to see.”

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For Kingman, this entire season has been one interesting thing to see after another.

Before the Warriors’ first practice, Wines discovered her star shortstop had a cyst inside her right shoulder and had torn 20 percent of her supraspinatus, a small muscle in the rotator cuff. Whenever Kingman threw with her right arm – her natural throwing arm – intense pain spread throughout her body.

There was no way she could continue throwing with that arm. Spurred on by overuse, the two ailments would’ve wiped out most players’ senior year. But not Kingman.

“It had to be hard on a kid coming back being league MVP last year and thinking she’s not going to be able to play,” Wines said. “But there was no way she wasn’t going to play. It was a no-brainer for her. She said, ‘I’ll just play first base.’ That was her first response.”

Kingman indeed started the season playing first base. Meanwhile, at practice, she worked on fielding balls with her right hand and building up the technique and strength needed to throw with her left. It didn’t take very long.

Within a month, she was playing third base and, for the past six games, Kingman has played shortstop. She’s recorded more than a dozen putouts from the left side of the infield and now has the Warriors thinking about a second-straight trip to the state tournament.

“You should have seen me when I first started, it wasn’t that pretty,” Kingman admitted. “I would get frustrated a lot and not want to play anymore. But I had a lot of encouragement from my coaches and my family. It was tough at first, but I knew I could do it because I do other things left-handed.”

When it came to plugging Kingman into the most important part of the field, Wines also said it was a no-brainer. She knew that Kingman already wrote, brushed her teeth and picked up a fork left-handed, so it was only a matter of time until she would be able to throw left-handed, too.

“Her experience and her athleticism have been the determining factors,” Wines said. “She knows what to do with the ball when she gets the ball. It’s taken a little bit of velocity off her throw, which is probably a good thing because last year she about took my head off in the dugout she threw it so hard, but it’s made her a little bit more accurate. Her glove is still so clean.”

What about her bat? Well, that was never a problem there.

In an 11-10 win over North Tahoe last week, Kingman went 4 for 4 with two home runs and a triple and increased her season home run total to three. Whittell (7-14 overall, 0-2 Northern 2A) plays a key doubleheader on Saturday against the Serpents in Hawthorne.

The Warriors likely need to sweep to earn either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the Northern 2A playoffs, which would mean avoid playing top-seeded Battle Mountain until the zone title game. For that to happen, Kingman figures she’ll need to be active in the infield, whether it’s running around the bases on offense or throwing players out on defense.

“I think we definitely have a good chance to go to state, absolutely,” said Kingman, who led the Warriors to a third-place finish at state in 2004. “As long as we finish second or third, I think we’ll be all right because the top two go to state.”

At one time, it appeared certain Kingman would play college softball. Now, she has decided this is it for her.

“I’m ready to move on,” said Kingman, who plans to attend the University of Washington. “I kind of knew before the softball season. It really had nothing to do with my arm. I can rehab it and it’s one of those things where it will totally get stronger again. I just don’t have time right now because it’s softball season.

“Washington has a pretty good team, but I’m ready to move on. There’s so much to see and do up there. I’m excited about that.”

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