By MATT KOESTERS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Chemistry is important in any battery. It’s only through hard work and repetition that a catcher can come to understand her pitcher’s mannerisms, tendencies and strengths. Fortunately for the Highlanders, two of the team’s catchers have years of experience working with their pitchers.
And they’re just freshmen.
Freshman catchers Taylor Batliner and Taylor McClure have the advantage of having worked with their sisters, senior pitchers Jordan Batliner (7-1) and Samantha McClure (6-2), for years. In the case of the Batliners, the two have been a tandem for nearly half their lives.
“The relationship I know that they have as sisters, there’s not necessarily a competitive relationship,” Floyd Central softball coach Joe Witten said. “They care for each other, and they’re always helping one another. That’s what a good battery does.”
Although the two pairings of sisters enjoy similar predicaments, the tandems couldn’t be different. While Samantha and Taylor McClure consider one another best friends, the sibling rivalry between the Batliner sisters is as healthy as they come.
But that doesn’t mean it hurts the team.
“We like to push each others’ buttons and see how far we can push them,” Jordan Batliner said. “I know I play better when I’m angry, so she’ll purposely try to make me mad so I’ll throw harder on the mound.”
The feeling’s mutual, her sister said.
“When she makes me mad, it just motivates me to work harder so I can show her up,” Taylor Batliner joked.
The trust and familiarity between the Batliners has been an asset for the Highlanders, Witten said.
“(Taylor) knows what Jordan’s effective pitches are and when they’re not working,” Witten said. “She goes to other things that are working, but doesn’t forget about those pitches early in the game if (Jordan’s) not hitting her spots exactly, and will go back to them.
“She just has a good knack for what’s working with Jordan, and for somebody so young, it’s pretty impressive.”
The Batliners have worked together longer than the McClures, thanks in part to the strength of Samantha McClure’s arm and the small stature of her sister.
“I didn’t start catching her until I was like 12 or 13, because she was a little scary to catch when I was younger,” Taylor McClure said.
“She was just a teeny thing,” Samantha added.
Although Taylor McClure remains one of the smaller players on the team, Witten believes she’s the right catcher for her sister because of Samantha’s style of play.
“Samantha has such a different release point. She releases the ball so low that it’s very difficult for a catcher that maybe sits up a little higher to pick up on it,” Witten said. “With Taylor being a little shorter, a little smaller, she gets to see the release point a second sooner, and she just has such a good reaction time to Samantha’s pitches.”
The decision to make the younger siblings the catcher for their older counterparts was an easy one for Witten, who cited the physical wear on catchers as the motivating factor in his decision to play the two freshmen. Witten’s decision was well-received by the two pitchers.
“I was pretty excited because (Taylor) knew how I throw,” Jordan said. “She knew my mannerisms on how I throw, and if it’s not working, (she doesn’t) call it.”
“We’re really close as sisters, so it works really well,” Samantha said. “We know what we can say to each other, and we’re not going to get mad.
“I called her out to the mound a couple of games ago, and I got on her kind of bad and I wasn’t worried at all that she was going to be upset about it. She listened to what I said and we worked it out.”
Things have worked out well for the Highlanders (14-4) so far this season. The freshmen want to see their sisters out in style.
“I’m really pumped about it,” Samantha said. “I think we’re doing really well. We had a bit of a rocky start in terms of coming together and talking and stuff. But now, I think we’ve come together a lot as a team. I’m really pumped about some of the big wins, like Castle and Jasper. We’ve had a couple of big wins, and even our losses, we’ve learned from them.”