Winthrop University

Eagles put their faith, and lead, in hands of Trottier

When talk turns to the diverse pitching staff on Winthrop's softball team, the first name that usually comes to mind is Megan Evans, a crafty left-hander who won 25 games last season and was the Big South Conference freshman of the year.

Then there's Cari Wooldridge, who was 17-6 last year when the Eagles went 50-18 and won the BSC tournament -- she was the MVP -- and knocked off Furman and North Carolina in the NCAA Regionals. She's 6-5 on the season and has a one-hitter against Auburn.

Evans and Wooldridge give coach Mark Cooke two quality starters, who have shown they can hang with the best. But Cooke is a firm believer it's not always how you start games, but how you finish them. And, that's where senior Izzy Trottier comes in.

"Izzy is very important to this team and we need her to be successful," said Cooke, who picked up his 600th win on Wednesday. "Last year, we had two freshmen starters and Izzy was always in reserve just in case.

"This year, she knows her role is to come in and put a period on the game. Now it's 'I know why I'm here and I'm going to get the job done.' When she's on, it's lights out."

That was the case Wednesday when the Eagles beat Vermont 10-0 in five innings and 6-1. Trottier struck out five of the six batters she faced.

Trottier is 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 29 1-3 innings, with 19 strikeouts. Though primarily a reliever, the native of Kitchener, Ontario, did make one start, shutting down Gardner-Webb 9-0 on four hits while striking out four in a game shortened to five innings.

"I'm off to the best start since I've been here," Trottier said. "I have more confidence. There were times when I would be nervous, but that doesn't happen anymore. I really feel like I can shut down anybody when I go into a game."

According to Cooke, that could be anytime, even though he'd like his two starters to go at least six innings.

"When the starter goes out for pregame warm up, Izzy is right there beside her," Cooke said. "I used to ask her if she was ready. I don't do that anymore because she's always ready."

"You never know what's going to happen in the first inning," Trottier said. "Megan or Cari could get off to a bad start or injure themselves. I need to be ready."

What makes Trottier such a solid reliever is that her style is so different from those of Evans and Wooldridge.

Evans throws about 59 mph and relies on rise ball and curve up and in. Wooldridge has been clocked in the lower 60s and favors a drop and change down.

Trottier likes to bring the heat -- she throws in the mid 60s -- and announce her presence with authority.

"Her stuff looks likes it has flames on it when she relieves Megan," Cooke said. "She throws a hard curve, a hard drop and a hard screwball."

Trottier grew up around sports. One older sister, Lindsay, was a standout softball player at Seton Hall, while Tarah was a record-setting field hockey standout at Central Michigan.

She calls her sisters the biggest influences in her life, saying "they have achieved so much and have supported me my whole college career.

Trottier started playing organized softball when she was 4 and was a regular on the summer traveling circuit throughout high school.

It was at one of those summer tournaments that Cooke first saw the 5-foot-8 power pitcher.

"You could see she had good stuff," Cooke said. "We knew she had a great future."

And she's improved every year, especially the ERA. It was 4.04 as a freshman, 4.27 her sophomore season and 2.66 last season.

The Eagles, 12-10, play in the three-day Winthrop/adidas Invitational against Ohio at 11 this morning at Terry Field. They'll play Fairfield at 3 p.m.

Trottier says the record doesn't portray how Winthrop has played so far.

"I feel like we've had a very good season so far," Trottier said. "We've played a difficult schedule, so our record doesn't show just how good we've played.

"We played ranked teams like DePaul and Michigan this month and haven't been blown out of the water," Trottier said, alluding to the 4-0 loss to the No. 12 Wolverines and 4-1 set back to No. 17 DePaul in the Lead-Off Classic in Columbus, Ga.

"This tournament will give us an idea where we are heading into our conference."

And what about the nickname Izzy?

"My middle name is Isabelle," said Trottier, who's first name is Jacqueline. "That was my grandmother's first name and everybody always called her Izzy, and when I was younger they'd call me Izzy."

• NOTES: Big South Conference preseason player of the year Lisa Kingsmore has hit safely in her last 17 games ... Winthrop has won four straight ... The Eagles lost one game in last year's invitational. Ohio, today's opening opponent, won 3-1.