When Virginia Tech softball head coach Pete D’Amour and sophomore pitcher Emma Lemley took to the press at media day last week, one question loomed on everyone's mind. Is Lemley's foot finally down?
Illegal pitch calls for Emma Lemley were controversial throughout the season all the way through their run to Super Regionals with plenty of boos from Tech fans and even one call that was made by the wrong umpire that led to Pete D'Amour being ejected from one postseason game.
This rule regards Lemley’s placement of her feet while pitching. Lemley’s pitch required both her feet to be off the ground mid pitch which is illegal. This rule is also referred to as “The Leap.” At the time, D'Amour was focused on simply letting Lemley be her best and not be as worried about the rule using the offseason after her strong freshman year to fix it.
Since then, Lemley has fixed her footing with help from not only Tech's coaches but also her dad.
“So the first I guess two or three weeks over the summer I wanna shout out to my dad as he helped me find out what was going on before I headed back to school. Once I got back to school, for the first two or three weeks, we kind of looked for other ways to add onto that to fix the problem and it took about three weeks for it to become comfortable and you know for it to become muscle memory," Lemley said.
She's also used the offseason to develop her pitching arsenal further in pursuit of elevating her play to another level.
“Definitely, this off season just trying to work on having a number two pitch to add to my lineup. Can I add that secondary or third pitch to not use all the time but to work on and I am beginning to use that drop as a third pitch," Lemley said.
D'Amour went further into how Lemley has been able to fix the illegal pitch issue while also adding more to her pitching arsenal this offseason.
“[Her] Back foot is on the ground, she's spinning the ball up as well as she ever has, her changeup is better than last year so is her drop off and so when you don’t have to sit on the rise ball, you can’t just sit on the rise ball so it's pretty devastating at times when we go out during our scrimmage games and she just mixes her pitches so well, it's a good problem to have.”
It is safe to say that Lemley’s pitching has gotten of to a hot start, as through her first two starts of the season against ECU and UNCW she has pitched a combined 12 innings and has allowed just five hits, along with 16 strikeouts. Most importantly, she didn't have a single illegal pitch called against her during her first two starts.
While it's one thing to fix it in no pressure offseason situations, it's another thing to maintain that when the bright lights come on and the games begin which Emma Lemley clearly has done.