LAKELAND — Reagan More has a sure-fire way to improve as a pitcher. Break your foot.
OK, so maybe it’s not exactly a method a pitcher should try, but it certainly worked for More. At least, that’s how she credits her improvement as a pitcher when she was about 14, just prior to entering high school.
Whatever the reason for her development as a pitcher, there’s no doubt the George Jenkins junior is an elite pitcher in the county, and one of the top hitters, too. She hopes to lead the Eagles to not just a district title but also deep playoff run.
More tried pitching at the suggestion of her coach when she was 10 years old. In the fall of her freshman year, when she was 14, she broke her foot while running backward during pregame stretching at a travelball tournament in Clermont. Her foot hit a hole, and she felt it pop.
Initially, More didn’t realize that she broke her foot. She thought it was a sprain and started the game. In the first inning, she got a hit and ran around the bases. By the time, she got back to the dugout, her foot was swollen.
“By the time I rounded third, I knew it was broken,” she said.
More missed about 2 ½ months, and during that time, her pitching coach, Richard Green, had her work on spins. Concentrating on that technique rather than the whole pitching motion helped her, she said.
“When I came back, I was five to seven miles (per hour) faster, and my spin was a lot more,” More said. “I think the break (from pitching) helped me.
Lang said More was better at the time than she gives herself credit for, but there’s no doubt she was a different player when she returned from the injury.
“It definitely gave me confidence, which I didn’t really have,” she said.
Regardless of how good she was before high school, by the time her freshman season with Jenkins came around, More was in top form and has been among the top pitchers in the county in each of her first two years of high school. Last season, she went 10-5 with a 0.65 ERA and 79 strikeouts.
“She’s matured a lot,” Lang said. “She doesn’t get down on herself. She’s competitive as can be. You can tell, if she strikes out (as a hitter), she’s not happy. You can see it in her face.”
Lang said one of the biggest improvements is her play in the field when she’s not pitching.
“She’s always been a good defensive player,” Lang said. “She fields her position better than anybody I’ve had here, by far. But we play her in the outfield, we play her at first base; hey, we’ve played her on the left side of the infield, and she can handle it. … Her defense playing other positions his really, really good.”
More likes playing the field. Her all-around talent is a major reason why North Carolina-Charlotte recruited her, and she committed there last spring. Mostly, she wants the ball.
“I love pitching,” More said. “It’s just you’re basically in every play. You’re not just standing there. People look to you during the inning. If there’s a problem, they look to the pitcher.”
More’s fastball is about 60 mph, but it seems faster because of her change-up and her dropball, which opponents often think is a change-up. She also throws a curveball and a screwball and is working on a riseball.
One advantage she also has when she pitches is that she’s a left-hander, which batters don’t see often.
“I think it’s a tremendous advantage,” Lang said. “She’ll throw to both sides of the plate. So many right-handers have trouble with that down-and-in pitch. She’ll throw that curveball down on a right-hander, and she throws the screwball, too. She’ll do that on a left-hander.”
More is dangerous as a hitter, too. She batted .366 last season with team-highs of three home runs and 30 RBIs, along with six doubles and a county-leading six triples.
“She loves to hit,” Lang said. “She can hit for power, she can hit in the gaps, she can slap if she wants to. She can lay down a bunt and beat it out all day long. She really understands hitting.”
While her hitting is important and high school softball is a bigger offensive game than it used to be, her pitching will go a long way in determining how successful the Eagles are in the postseason. She doesn’t mind the pressure.
“I do well in pressure,” she said. “I prefer pressure, honestly. You need to do good, and you know have to do it, and it pushes you harder. I’m focused. I’m not thinking about anything else at the time.”
The George Jenkins softball team was also listed as a team to watch in Polk County. Here is what was written in The Ledger:
George Jenkins: The Eagles again will battle rival Bartow in the district and the region. With nearly every starter back, Jenkins is looking for a break-through season after losing in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons. Reagan More is one of the top pitchers in the county and is a middle-of-the-order hitter. The Eagles are strong up the middle with catcher Madelyn Graham, shortstop Olivia Davis, second baseman Paityn Moore and center fielder Janessa Plummer. Brooklyn Cardona, who led the Eagles in hitting last year, is also back.