Hancock County pitcher Lily Roberts has picked up right where she left off.
As a sophomore last season, Roberts set a new program record with 312 strikeouts — and it didn’t take long for her to add to the record books in 2022-23. In Hancock County’s season-opening 6-2 win over Apollo, the junior hurler struck out 18 batters to tie another school record.
Heading into this weekend’s doubleheader at the Battle of the Barrens in Barren County, Roberts has already racked up 34 strikeouts in three games, with a trio of victories under her belt.
“She works at it,” HCHS coach Dwayne Wroe said. “She’s a strong kid, she’s got strong legs. She’s worked on her other pitches, so now she’s got pretty good command of three or four pitches, and that’s really helped. She’s probably gained 2-to-3 miles an hour on her pitches from last year.
“Against Apollo, she had 18 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter. Anytime you’ve got good command and you’re not putting people on base, you’re going to be pretty successful.”
Watching Roberts develop over the years, from splitting time in the circle as a freshman to putting up dominant numbers so far as a junior, Wroe has enjoyed watching the process.
“As a coach, that’s what makes you most proud — to see them get better,” said Wroe, whose daughter Taylor originally set the 18-strikeout record that Roberts tied and is now an assistant coach with the Lady Hornets. “As a coach, it’s pretty gratifying to see the hard work pay off and for her to get the recognition she deserves.”
In Hancock County’s 3-0 start, Roberts gave up only four runs on 12 hits with four walks in 16 innings. A season ago, she finished with a 1.84 earned-run average with 52 earned runs on 126 hits and 49 walks, sporting a 23-9 record in the process.
As long as she continues to grow, Wroe sees sky-high potential for his pitcher.
“Last year, we pitched her a lot of innings, and hopefully we can cut back on innings a little bit to save the wear and tear on her arm,” he said. “So far, she’s been real durable and been fortunate to stay away from any injuries.
“She’s got good backing behind her defensively, but she’s a strikeout pitcher. So, sometimes fielders are just so used to seeing so many strikeouts, they get lulled to sleep when a team puts it in play.”
Playing a more difficult schedule should also help her development, Wroe added.
“We’re playing a tough schedule this year,” he said. “We’re playing four teams that were in the state tournament last year. We beefed the schedule up a little bit. I know we’re going to have some bumps in the road — it’s a long season and you always have ups and downs — but anytime she’s on the mound, I like our chances. We can compete with anybody in the state.”
And, Wroe added, one of the best parts of Roberts’ game is simply how she approaches competition.
“She stays calm out there and calms the rest of our players down,” he said, noting that Roberts achieved a perfect game during the Lady Hornets’ trip to Florida last spring and didn’t even know about it. “That helps her on the mound, because she’s not really worried about anything or the results, just getting out there and throwing.
“A great kid, great student, comes from a great family — she’s been a pleasure to coach, and the good thing is we have her for another year.”
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