Santora’s versatility leads GV pitching staff

GVL / Bo Anderson

Pitcher Hannah Santora

Bo Anderson

GVL / Bo Anderson Pitcher Hannah Santora

Pete Barrows

Hannah Santora, senior ace of the Grand Valley State University softball team, is only 5’3”, but what she lacks in sheer height, she makes up for with her pitching.

“She’s a very competitive individual,” said GVSU head softball coach Doug Woods. “Sort of small stature, but she’s got a lot of bark to her bite. She really gets after you when she pitches.”

A transfer student from Kanakee Community College in northeast Ill., Santora has shown off her bark frequently in her three seasons as a Laker. In 2012, Santora turned in one of the more prolific seasons in the history of the program. In 31 starts and 202.2 innings pitched, Santora completed 26 games and won 24, good for a 77.4 win percentage and a fifth-place rank in GVSU’s single-season record book for wins. She also finished ninth in strikeouts for a single-season (153), and tossed in seven shutouts to go with a stingy 1.90 ERA, all of which culminated in All-GLIAC first team, National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Midwest Region Second Team and Daktronics Third Team All-American honors.

In softball, top female pitchers have been known to touch mid-60 mph and beyond on radar guns. Santora has not established a reputation for blowing hitters back with her speed, but once her pitch arrives from 40 feet away, it doesn’t visit cordially.

“She changes speeds real well,” Woods said. “She’s not a pitcher who throws 62 miles per hour, but she changes her speed and keeps the batter off stride.”

Relying on control and an understanding of pace and variance, Santora engages another undervalued pitching skill to ensure her results – a short memory. Even when stuck in a pinch, Santora is all but unflappable.

“She’s pretty tough mentally,” Woods said. “She can give up a home run, that won’t affect her – she won’t let that get her down. She’ll just come back and go after the next batter.”

Santora also benefits from a strong working relationship with fellow senior Emily Holt, her catcher of three years. When her preferred pitch, a well-crafted change up, isn’t getting the job done, Santora knows who to look to.

“She (Holt) has a lot to do with my pitches,” Santora said. “She tells me when they’re not working. We’re really good at communicating and we get along well outside the softball field and inside.”

Santora also understands her role on the team and that should she ever falter, support won’t be far behind.

“I feel very strong about it (GVSU’s 2013 pitching staff),” Santora said. “If one of us isn’t doing well, another one warms up and I know that they have my back or if I’m not doing well, I’ll warm up and have their back.”

Picking up right where she left off in 2012, Santora has started off 2013 with a 6-0 record, all complete games, earning GLIAC Softball Pitcher of the Week honors and helping GVSU to a 10-2 record exiting the NTC Spring Games held in Clermont, Fl. over spring break. The best may be yet to come.

“I could have pitched better, but my team was behind me,” Santora said.

Back north, the weather was not quite as hospitable over the weekend and unsuitable playing fields forced cancellations of a pair of non-conference doubleheaders scheduled for Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17.

The squad will be back in action Tuesday Mar. 19 to take on St. Joseph’s college in Rensselaer, Ind., their last doubleheader tune-up before entering league play.

“We did practice Friday, but they had Saturday and Sunday off,” Woods said. “Hopefully they come back ready to practice on Monday and hopefully we get to get outside and play.”

Until provided her next start, Santora will continue her leadership role on the roster by doing what she does best.

“I’m a very competitive person so when I’m out there, I just focus on pitching and block out everything else,” Santora said.

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