Anyone who stands near the opposing dugout at Southern Nash will hear it right away.
Opposing teams size up Olivia Lamm’s warm-ups immediately, and the reviews are overwhelmingly negative. They comment about how slow she pitches, about how they haven’t seen anyone like Lamm and about how easy their day will be.
For as good as opponents were at criticizing Lamm’s pitching, they weren’t very good at hitting it.
The Southern Nash freshman won the Telegram’s 2014 All-Area Softball Pitcher of the Year for a standout year in which she helped the Ladybirds to the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.
Lamm isn’t oblivious. She knows what the other teams said this season.
“I can hear, ‘Oh, she’s slow,’ and stuff like that, but I don’t let it get to me,” Lamm said. “I take it as a compliment because most girls can’t hit off me.”
Especially not in the most important stretch of the season. During the month of May, which encompasses the end of the regular season, the Big East Conference Tournament and the playoffs, Lamm had an ERA under two.
While Lamm’s style might not have won over many opponents, it did prove to be effective.
In softball, particularly at the youth level, many girls win the No. 1 spot in a rotation because they throw hard. While velocity has its advantages, Southern Nash coach Christy Bailey-Reams said most teams see power pitcher after power pitcher. Adjusting for one speed is much easier than adjusting to someone who can change speeds, especially when many teams aren’t used to doing it.
“Off-speed pitchers always work in your favor,” Bailey-Reams said. “A lot of times, everybody wants speed, speed, speed. It’s easy to hit to hit speed and get timing down. It’s hard to hit off-speed.”
Lamm has been taking pitching lessons with former Southern Nash ace Taylor Braswell since the sixth grade, and much of the focus had been on control.
Braswell saw immediately that Lamm had a significant amount of spin on the ball and could hit her spots. Lamm wasn’t overpowering, but she threw strikes and could avoid solid contact.
Even with Braswell’s recommendation, Lamm still was a freshman, and a unique one at that. She wasn’t sure how – or if – she would fit into a Southern Nash varsity team that contends for league titles almost every year.
“She knew that if she went out, she was thinking she was going to be on JV, but at least she would be pitching,” Olivia’s mother, Helen Lamm, said. “If she played varsity, she thought she might get to play some but not be the main pitcher, and she was OK with that.”
Bailey-Reams saw a clear varsity pitcher during tryouts, though she wasn’t sure what Lamm’s workload would be. When Lamm kept pitching well in her outings, the choice was pretty easy.
Lamm was Southern Nash’s No. 1, even to her own surprise.
“I didn’t think I was going to get the full playing time and everything. It surprised me when I did play a lot,” Lamm said.
Lamm kept improving as the year progressed, and she sparkled in the Ladybirds’ important games.
In the Big East championship game and the first two rounds off the playoffs, Lamm started all three games and allowed two runs.
Southern Nash won all three games.
By the end of the year, hitters buckling their front knees against Lamm was common, and the opposing dugout was awfully quiet by the end of many games.
“I think in the second half of the season, most teams were (confused),” Bailey-Reams said. “A lot of them didn’t know what they had just seen.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com