Tori Sutherland was already good as a freshman.
The strides she made to improve this season made the Barron Collier High School pitcher one of the best in Southwest Florida.
The Naples Daily News Softball Player of the Year excelled both as a hitter and a pitcher, helping the Cougars to a 21-6 record and Class 6A-District 12 championship.
“Tori improved more mentally than physically,”s Cougars coach Tom Resop said. “Last year, she’d often hit a wall in the fifth or sixth inning. This year, she kind of feels out the hitters in the first inning and then settles down the rest of the game.”
Sutherland was a true workhorse for the Cougars, pitching all but six innings this season. In those 171 innings pitch, Sutherland allowed just 129 hits with 45 walks and 150 strikeouts.
“The walks were a little higher than where I wanted them to be. That’s something I’ve got to keep working on,” Sutherland said. “I started throwing more days in the week and also called my own pitches instead of letting my coach do it. This season was a lot of fun.”
Sutherland served as the Cougars’ leadoff hitter, and did an outstanding job of getting on base. The sophomore standout batted .346 with a .435 on-base percentage, scoring 15 runs and knocking in 13. By helping the Cougars score early runs, she was also making things easier for herself on the pitching slab.
“I don’t really look at myself as a great leadoff batter. I just try to get on base as much as I can,” she said. “It helps to score those early runs, because there’s less pressure later in the games. I’m more relaxed pitching with a lead.”
Sutherland pointed to a pair of shutout wins — a 3-0 victory at Naples and a 1-0, nine-inning thriller against North Fort Myers — as her two marquee performances. But Resop pointed to one of Sutherland’s losses — a 4-1 defeat to perennial state power Plantation-American Heritage — as an indication of what his pitcher can do against elite competition.
“We mainly lost that game because of a couple errors in the first inning. Tori pitched a great game,” he said. “We beat a few (Class) 9A teams in the Kissimmee (Klassic), so she’s beaten quality teams.”
Sutherland is more of a finesse pitcher, able to mix a variety of offerings to throw off the opposition’s timing. She’s working on adding velocity, and will continue developing her pitches playing travel ball with the Plantation Pressure this summer.
“Travel ball is really tough competition,” she said. “It makes high school ball look a lot easier.”
Sutherland said she’s excited for what the future holds at Barron Collier. The Cougars lost 7-2 to North Fort Myers in the regional semifinals, with a sloppy first inning leading to six runs to effectively end their season.
“We’ve got everybody back next year,” she said. “We definitely want to make it farther than we did this year.”