Lumsden thrives at Illinois school
While watching Ally Lumsden swing the bat at a tournament last June in Oklahoma City, the head coach of the Lindenwood University-Belleville women's softball porgram spotted something special in the Kelowna teenager.
Ten months later, Charlie Kennedy's intuition is proving accurate as the 18-year-old Lumsden has developed into a dominant force in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
In her freshman season on the LU-Belleville Lynx pitching staff, Lumsden has posted a 7-4 win-loss record and ERA in 20 appearances.
The highlight of her so-far brief collegiate career with the Lynx came March 23 in Buena Vista, Virginia, as Lumsden tossed a perfect game against the University of Maine.
Lumsden went five scoreless innings, allowing no hits and no walks, while striking out 10 batters.
"It felt really good," Lumsden said of the perfect game effort. "Not giving up any walks is huge for me. I've has some problems with control in the past, but now knowing I can go through a whole game without a walk is a big step for me. It was very exciting."
That Lumsden ended up playing university ball and pursuing an education south of the border—let alone tossing a perfect game—seemed to her an unlikely scenario as recently as last spring.
Up until making the trip to Oklahoma with Bernie Penner's Kelowna Heat midget team in June 2011, Lumsden was largely unsure of her future.
"I really didn't know what I was going to do after high school, what I would do education-wise, or if playing softball was even an option for me," said Lumsden, who won a provincial bantam B championship with the Kelowna Heat in 2009.
"Then when I went to Oklahoma, all of a sudden there was this opportunity. Coach Kennedy liked what he saw when I was batting, so he pulled me aside and told me he was interested in seeing more of what I could do."
Kennedy then sent a videotape of Lumsden pitching off to his pitching coach and, after a brief consulation, the Lynx staff was convinced of her potential.
In the few short months since joining the Lindenwood University program, Kennedy said Lumsden has shown dramatic improvement in several areas of her game.
For starters, she's added considerable velocity to her fastball, pushing it from 58 to 65 mph.
"Since she's arrived she's grown stronger," said Kennedy. "She was a strong kid already, she has tremendous core strength, but with our winter conditioning her total body strength has really improved.
"When she got here, she wasn't throwing nearly as hard," Kennedy added. "Ally wasn't using her legs to drive to the plate. Now she's using her whole body and she's overpowering hitters. She's a mainstay on our staff and we couldn't be more thrilled."
Still, a fastball isn't Lumsden's only effective pitch as it was for so many years playing minor ball.
Lumsden has added a littany of pitches to her repertoire, including a screwball, curveball, knuckleball, a rise-ball and a dropball.
It's meant many hours of hard work, in and outside the gym, and twice-a-week trips to nearby St. Louis to work with Lynx pitching coach Jim Greiner.
"We work hard on the both the mental and physical aspects," Lumsden said. "You need to have both going for you to pitch at this level."
The 2012 season is the first for women's softball program at LU-Belleville and, of the 21 players on the roster Lumsden is the only freshman.
Lumsden is also the lone Canadian, not only on the team, but in the entire student body population of 502.
It's made for some interesting conversations with her American-born teammates and classmates.
"A lot of them think I talk funny, and I think they talk funny," Lumsden said with a laugh. "I guess we'll have to disagree on that one. They laugh when I say words like 'about', 'sorry' and 'pasta'.
"I actually think I'm picking up some of their accent. Even when I went home last time my parents noticed it in a few words. I guess that's what happens when you spend so much time with people."
Speaking of her parents, Lumsden is eternally grateful to her dad and mom, Paul and Pat, for their support over the years.
She speaks to them virtually every night via Skype and, despite the occasional bout with homesickness, Lumsden has settled nicely into her new life in the American midwest.
"They're all good people on this team, it's like having 21 sisters and three dads," Lumsden said. "I miss home quite a bit, it's hard being away from my family, but at the same time it's nice to be away on my own, learning more about myself and growing. I'm pretty busy most of the time, so that helps too."
Lumsden, who has her tuition paid for by the university, is enrolled in the business program with a minor in communications.
On the diamond, the Lynx have 18 games remaining before the national championship tournament, May 10 to 13 in Dayton, Ohio where LU-Belleville is expected to contend for the USCAA title.