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The Drill: Wingate's pitches stick to the roof of the strike zone

Sibley-Ocheyedan fast-pitch softball pitcher Alayna Wingate is pitching and hitting to help her team win

Sibley-Ocheyedan High School softball player Alayna Wingate delivers a pitch during a recent game.
Sibley-Ocheyedan High School softball player Alayna Wingate delivers a pitch during a recent game.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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SIBLEY, Iowa -- Every time The Globe does a Drill feature, we ask the subject to share something unique about themselves that many people might not know. Most of their fans are aware of the sport or sports they play, and they might even know quite a bit about what the athlete has accomplished.

So we like to have them share something more, and we don’t care how quirky it is.

It’s probably the toughest question we ask. Some athletes have to think about it awhile. Others can’t come up with anything, though it’s kind of humorous to note that on a couple of occasions they’ve used a cell phone to call up their mothers. And their mothers are quick to supply the answer.

Recently, we chose successful Sibley-Ocheyedan High School athlete Alayna Wingate as our Drill subject, so naturally we asked her our favorite question. She didn’t have to think about it for long.

“The most unusual thing about me is that I love peanut butter on my burgers. I think we were talking about it at church one day -- just burgers, because we were having a grill-out or something. And then someone mentioned putting peanut butter on your burgers. And then I tried it, and it was sooooo good.”

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So with that, we established something quirky and unique about Alayna. And, believe it or not, she is the first Drill subject that used peanut butter in her answer.

There are a lot of things, frankly, that make Wingate -- who’ll be a senior next fall -- special. She is a four-sport athlete, performing in softball, basketball, track and field, and cross country. This past spring, she competed in the 400-meter hurdles in track and field and actually placed in the Iowa state meet. She was 10th, in fact, and she calls the result “crazy exciting.”

She’s having a very good year in summer fast-pitch softball, where the Generals were, at last glance, sporting a winning record after 15 games. Wingate is doing everything well, hitting at a .350 clip through June 21 with two triples, four stolen bases and a .475 slugging average. She had a .943 fielding average, too.

Sibley-Ocheyedan High School baseball player Tyler Woelber plays several positions, and he likes playing them in the summertime.

But it is as a pitcher where she most affects games. She has pitched in every game this season and owned (through the 21st) a 2.29 earned run average. Her coach, Keith Swenson, told us that last year, Wingate averaged about 1.25 strikeouts per inning. She’s right there again this year, with 126 in 100.2 innings pitched.

We caught up to her recently in a home game against George-Little Rock at the Ocheyedan community field. Before the game began, we interviewed her, then watched her perform her pitching craft in a S-O victory. You can see the video online at www.dglobe.com . Here’s a sample of the interview:

QUESTION: How has your softball career progressed over the years?

ANSWER: “Last year I was not a good hitter at all. I was going up to the plate, it was not surprising to strike out most of the time. But this year I’ve improved a lot. … And then, pitching, I’ve also come a long way with my mental toughness. I used to come on and be very nervous, and like just scared overall. And now I’m more confident and ready to pitch.”

QUESTION: What pitches do you like to throw?

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ANSWER: “Riseball is my main pitch. … I don’t have crazy fast speed, but I think my pitches move pretty well and that keeps the batters on their toes. I see a lot of batters in the front of the box, but they still can’t hit it that well sometimes.”

QUESTION: What do you like to do when you’re not playing sports?

ANSWER: “This summer I’ve been doing a lot of baby-sitting, and I love the kids I watch. They’re all super-sweet. And they like pitching, too. The girls are like, ‘Alayna, help me, help me.’ So then I catch for them and give them little tips. Otherwise, I’m at the pool a lot. I lifeguard.”

Related Topics: THE DRILLSOFTBALL
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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