How many pitches is too many for a high schooler?
Well in baseball the un-written rule is 100. Much higher than that and the performance can attract some negative attention and criticism.
For softball players, though, pitch counts aren’t nearly as enforced because of the much less strain placed on the arm during an underhand toss.
That’s lucky for the Hamilton Broncs and senior hurler Brie Clifford.
Hamilton needed four games last Saturday to finish off the Southwestern A Divisional tournament with a first placing and the league’s No. 1 seed to state. Clifford threw every pitch of the gauntlet, a staggering 440 pitches that encompassed 30 innings and 40 strikeouts.
440 pitches later we’re divisional champs!!!!:)
— Brieee ✨ (@BrieCliff) May 25, 2014
“We really needed me to be in that situation so I dunno,” Clifford recalled her daunting day of work. “I just got really motivated at the end.”
All the work fell to Clifford, the team’s regular No. 1 pitcher, when the squad’s second in the circle, Shaylan Mohn, was injured during earlier tournament play. Clifford rose to the occasion.
Hamilton lost to Butte Central 1-0 in eight innings, a game in which Clifford struck out 16, to start its day at noon, then followed with three straight wins to cap the tournament. The Broncs beat Central twice to claim the championship, the last game shorting Clifford a few more innings when it was called because of darkness with her team up 5-2 through five.
“I got a bunch of arm massages throughout the day,” Clifford joked, “but oh God, I was so tired.
“It didn’t really hurt until the next day. I couldn’t sleep on my right side that night.”
Worth it though right for the 20-5 state-bound Broncs, who now begin State A tournament play Thursday with a first-round bye?
“Uh, I guess,” Clifford groaned at the memory of the marathon.