Any high school fast-pitch softball coach will tell you that pitching is the key in determining a team's success.
"In this game, pitching is so much of the game," Mundy's Mill coach Patrick Smith said. "It is definitely the key to winning."
Smith will not get much of an argument for Strong Rock coach Eddie Wise, who has a dominating pitcher in Katie Shultes. Wise team has struggled this season because of fielding errors from a young team, but Shultes has been solid.
She has about 200 strikeouts and has only allowed 14 earned runs this season. Shultes has a 0.96 ERA heading into the final week of the regular season.
"We have made a lot of errors," Wise said. "In fast-pitch softball, the key is to hit your spots. One of the biggest keys in this game is pitching. You can go real far with a dominating pitcher."
Union Grove is hoping for that to be the case with Megan Betsa leading the way. Betsa, a junior, has been one of the most dominating pitchers in the state. She is averaging at least one strikeout per inning, according to coach Rod Pipkin.
"Pitching is the No. 1 key, but you still have to hit and score runs," said Pipkin, whose team spent several weeks at No. 1 in the coaches' poll. "It you have a good, dominating pitcher, it sure does help."
Last season, Savannah McHellon was a big reason that Mundy's Mill dominated Region 4-AAAA. This season, the sophomore is pitching for No. 7 Ola, which is considered a state contender.
Lovejoy is undefeated in Region 4-AAAA, and coach Arthur Carter says pitching has been a big reason. The Wildcats use junior Chasity Carter, the coach's daughter, and sophomore Laurel Wynn.
The younger Carter has thrown two no-hitter this season.
Coach Arthur Carter said the two compliment each other well because they have different pitching styles, which offers a change of pace to their opponents.
"Chasity will let you hit the ball and rely on her defense," Carter said. "With Laurel, she is more of a strikeout pitcher."