MSUB's Todd finds out she was meant to be a pitcher

2014-04-24T20:00:00Z 2014-04-26T00:17:05Z MSUB's Todd finds out she was meant to be a pitcherBy JOE KUSEK jkusek@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Amanda Todd’s career as a college infielder lasted all of about 15 seconds.

That’s about how long it took for then head coach Tony Stone to tell her to go work with the pitchers.

The Todd who takes the mound for the final time on Friday afternoon against the University of Great Falls in Great Falls is a totally different pitcher who was a scared freshman in the fall of 2010.

The only constant is the gum. “I have to chew gum,” she said of her one nod to superstition.

And after she’s faced the final batter, Todd will finish among the career top 10 at Montana State Billings for strikeouts, victories, complete games, appearances and innings pitched.

“It’s hard to believe it’s almost over,” she said of her final games. “I’m still thinking I’ll be playing next year."

Todd was a shortstop for Billings Skyview and a good one, earning all-state honors in as a senior.

But Stone had her work with the pitchers during a recruiting visit and repeated the instructions during the Yellowjackets first practice in the fall of 2010.

“I was literally shaking,” said the likable Todd, who turned 22 on Wednesday. “I thought it was some kind of joke. It was obviously a joke on a freshman. I was super scared.”

Nobody was laughing.

Todd had pitched in some in high school. At the time, she had two pitches: “A fastball and a change-up that didn’t work,” Todd said.

Stone’s plan was to have Todd pitch against weaker teams, working behind returning starters Kasie Conder and Annaleisha Parsley.

“I remember walking up to her and asking her, ‘What pitches do you throw?’ ” said Lisa Allen, then MSUB’s pitching coach and now the head coach.

Allen’s query was met with quiet.

“We literally broke her down from the beginning,” Allen continued. “We had to show her all the different grips (for different pitches) and snaps. She’s always been good about taking coaching. You tell her what is wrong and she fixes it.

“What Amanda has done is amazing. From having little knowledge about pitching to becoming one of the best pitchers in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, that’s a huge accomplishment for her.”

The process was not easy. “I would leave practice crying so hard. I was so frustrated,” Todd said.

The learning curve was accelerated her freshman season when Conder suffered a season-ending torn rotator cuff.

“Tony called us in and told me, ‘I know you’re just learning this stuff, but you’re going to have to prepare more,’ ” said Todd. “I think that made us better. We knew we were getting the ball. There was nobody else. That made us focus better.”

Todd finished with a career-high nine wins her first season, striking out 100 in 91 innings.

“Amanda has always been about the team,” Allen said. “She knew we needed her to become a pitcher for the team and she accepted that role.”

Todd also grew to love her new role on the field.

“You’re in every play. You control the pace of the game,” she said. “Now that I’ve pitched, I love it and couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Building a reputation as a pressure pitcher, she was 7-4 as a sophomore, helping the Yellowjackets win the GNAC title and earn a berth in the NCAA Division II national tournament.

Normally talkative and sarcastic around friends and teammates, Todd changes on days she pitches. “I get super serious. My friends know I’m ready to go,” she said. “I’m ready to strike people out.”

Last year, she was hampered by a broken navicular bone in her left foot. “We braced it and taped it when I pitched,” she said. “But it was definitely painful. Toward the end of the year, it was getting worse.”

She wore a walking boot when not pitching and during the rest of the summer. She finally had the bone removed last fall. The quarter-size bone now resides in a jar sitting on her father Pat’s work bench in the family garage.

“Crazy, huh?” Todd said with a laugh.

Now throwing a full arsenal of pitches – fastball, changeup, curve, riser, drop and back door curve – Todd closed her final home games in a big way, pitching one-hitters against Northwest Nazarene on back-to-back days.

“It was so weird,” she said of the weekend. Todd struck out 17 in two games, including 11 in the second. “I was just taking it one pitch at a time.

“I am literally shocked with the success I’ve had during my career. I feel like it’s unreal.”

The psych rehabilitation major has been in discussion with people about playing overseas in Austria, but she was considering making one request to Allen in 2014’s final games.

“I do miss hitting,” Todd said. She is 1 for 7 during her career, the lone hit coming her freshman season. “In high school, I used hitting to calm myself down. When I got here and found out pitchers don’t hit, I didn’t know what to do.

“This has been a great experience. I’ve learned so much. Softball has had a major impact on my life. Turned out I was meant to be a pitcher.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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