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Pair of aces aim for national title

Concordia pitchers Simons and Young have divergent styles, but both key No. 3-ranked Eagles.

April 02, 2011|By Joe Haakenson, Daily Pilot

They're both blonde, Southern California girls. They've played softball since they were very little, and they've found similar success from inside the circle.

They share common skills and goals alike, both hoping to become teachers one day. But not before the more immediate goal of helping the Concordia University softball team win an NAIA national championship.

Jennifer Simons is 15-2 with an 0.98 earned-run average and teammate Courtney Young is 15-1 with a 1.09 ERA, helping lead the Eagles to a 38-4 record, including 15-1 in the Golden State Athletic Conference. They are ranked No. 3 in the NAIA national poll.

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But for as much as they have in common, they are very different, both on and off the softball field. Simons is 5-foot-2, needing to make the most of her technique and mechanics to be successful. Young, at 5-8, is a more naturally gifted pitcher who wowed observers while at Peninsula High in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Off the field, Simons is a chatterbox; Young a bit more reserved.

"Courtney is very unassuming and a very hard worker, she has a quiet disposition," Concordia Coach Crystal Rosenthal said. "Jennifer is also hard working, but she's very outspoken. They've really contributed for different reasons, but also the same reasons."

Simons, a junior who graduated from Villa Park High, makes up for her lack of height with an impressive selection of pitches. She said she throws seven different pitches — a fastball, curveball, screwball, drop, rise, an off-speed curveball and a changeup.

"It definitely helps to be tall," Simons said. "Your stride is longer so you end up closer to the plate, and you have more whip on the ball. So my coaches have worked with me on using my whole body and getting the most out of someone my size."

Simons credits Tammy Kincaid, her pitching coach for seven years before she went to college, and current Concordia pitching coach Rose Imbriano for helping her succeed in the circle. And it doesn't hurt that the game is in her blood. Her mom Kathy was a catcher at Cal State Fullerton and her sister Jessica played at Point Loma Nazarene.

"I started playing when I was 4 and starting pitching when I was 6," Simons said. "I grew up in a baseball-softball family, and I fell in love with it."

Simons, who is hitting .351 as a designated hitter, with two home runs and 19 runs batted in, when she's not pitching, also is quick to credit her teammates.

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