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Pitcher-Perfect Performance

Osbourn's Ecks Faces 21 Batters, Strikes Them All Out

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 3, 2005; Page E04

It was not until the seventh inning, when she almost walked a Woodbridge batter, that Osbourn All-Met senior pitcher Cristi Ecks realized that a base on balls would ruin her perfect game.

Not just any perfect game. A perfect game in which she had struck out every Woodbridge hitter -- all 19 -- up to that point.

"I had no idea the whole time," Osbourn's Cristi Ecks said of her perfect game. She has 123 strikeouts and one walk in eight games this season. (Michael Temchine For The Washington Post)

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"I had no idea the whole time," Ecks said Friday, recalling the gem she pitched two days earlier on her home field. She recovered to fan the batter with the 3-0 count, and the next Viking, to cap the 13-0 victory.

Twenty-one up, 21 down, all by strikeout. Sixty-three strikes, 12 balls. And one proud school.

Since then, even students and teachers who previously had no interest in softball have peppered Ecks and Coach Renee Leake with questions like, "What's the minimum number of outs in a game?" and "When do you play again?"

"Everyone's just like, 'You struck the whole team out?' " said the right-handed Ecks, who has a full scholarship to the University of South Florida.

"I told one of my classes that Osbourn was going to be in Sports Illustrated," said Leake, who pitched Ecks's accomplishment to the magazine's "Faces in the Crowd" section. "And one of the kids raised his hand and said, 'You mean it's going to say 'Osbourn High School in Manassas?' ' The kids are just proud to go to Osbourn. Her accomplishment, everybody is feeding off it a little bit."

Ecks's feat for the No. 5 Eagles (8-0) has reverberated throughout softball circles in the Washington area, and the fact that the Woodbridge program is not a particularly strong one should not detract from her fanning all 21 batters, coaches say.

Calvert Coach Frank Moore watched his pitcher, All-Met Megan Elliott, a freshman at the time, strike out the first 18 batters in a 1-0 loss to Severna Park in the 2003 Maryland 3A championship. Elliott finished with 19 strikeouts that game.

"It doesn't matter who you're facing," Moore said. "If . . . you've never played this game before you could just lay your bat out and by mistake hit it. For [Ecks] to [strike out all 21 batters], she had to have a helluva lot of control and she had to have a lot of willpower. She has to be mentally tough once she gets that far to finish it up."

"I would say it's basically unheard of," said O'Connell Coach Tommy Orndorff, who has sent several pitchers on to big-time college programs during his tenure both with his private school program and the Shamrocks travel team.

One of them was former Surrattsville pitcher Michelle Collins, who in 1988 struck out 35 in a 14-inning win over Frederick in a Maryland Class A championship, and whiffed 52 in a 23-inning win the following season against North Carroll in a Maryland 3A tournament game. Orndorff thinks Collins might have struck out 21 of 21 batters in a travel team tournament game at some point.

"I don't care if it's [against] a playground team," he said. "If a pitcher can do that without hitting a batter, walking a batter or a mistake being made somewhere along the line, that's a tremendous accomplishment."

The Woodbridge players were gracious in defeat, jokingly thanking Ecks for striking them all out. Fact is, the young Vikings had not faced a pitcher of Ecks's caliber all season. Only two managed to hit solid foul balls. At one point, seven straight players fanned on three pitches each.

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