Windsor freshman throws perfect game
Published 10:28 am Friday, April 10, 2015
Although she is a transfer student, it didn’t take long for Windsor High School’s Emily Jane Bankson to fit in with the softball team. By the fourth game of the season, the freshman’s belongings were spread out amongst several teammates’ cars.
It also didn’t take long for her to solidify her value to the team. On March 31, Bankson, who prefers to be called E.J., struck out 14 of 18 batters on her way to a six-inning perfect game against Brunswick High School.
“My changeup was not really working,” Bankson, 14, said. “It was gross. But my other pitches were, so it was good.”
The changeup is something she’s having to figure out. It’s her favorite pitch, but she’s struggled with it of late.
“Whenever I pitch for travel ball, it works,” Bankson said. “But whenever I pitch here, it doesn’t. Maybe I feel like I have to make it work, so it doesn’t.”
Her normal approach on the mound is to not overthink it too much, particularly when it comes to stats.
“I just pitched, and I had a few strikeouts,” was all she could really say about the game. “Whenever they hit it, the defense got them out.”
And the defense did help — Morgan Whitley at third base made an off-balance throw to save the perfect game.
Windsor head coach Sean Wade said Bankson was in the zone that day. When she’s on the mound, she’s in the moment, he said.
“Our whole team is really that way,” Wade said. “I think having her on the mound thinking like that has kind of rubbed off on the whole team.”
As for what type of pitcher Bankson is, Wade said she’s gutsy. She’s got a strong command for hitting her spots, and she throws it harder than people expect.
“She doesn’t get too down, and she doesn’t get too confident,” Wade said. “Just every pitch, she grinds.”
Wade said he knew the former Nansemond-Suffolk Academy eighth-grade varsity pitcher from the travel ball circuit.
“She came out during tryouts and displayed what we thought would give us a shot to compete in this district, and really in our conference,” he said of the freshman earning the starting pitching spot. “King William and Nandua in our conference are two class teams that we really have to focus on to win in the playoffs.”
Wade has given up pitch calling to Bankson and junior catcher Brittany Wade, 16, and he admits that’s a big part of it.
“Going into this season, I was nervous about the new catcher-pitcher combination because we didn’t have much time to get used to each other,” Brittany said, adding that so far it has worked out pretty well.
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she continued. “We pick each other up and give constructive criticism to each other when needed.”
Brittany said she felt the pressure of the perfect game.
“I wanted that game so bad for her, and I’m glad she got it,” she said. “That game was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am so glad to have been a part of it with my girls.”
The junior had played Brunswick before, so she had an idea of what they would do. She also knows E.J. pretty well.
“Going into the game, I knew Brunswick could hit the ball, but they have a tendency to chase high pitches,” Brittany said. “I told her before the game to make sure her rise and curve were working. Sure enough, they were on point.”
The pressure is part of why Bankson loves being a pitcher.
“I like how it makes you feel like you kind of have to do good,” she said. “I like to be nervous, but not too nervous.”
Softball has been a part of her life for six years, and for four years she’s been playing for the Orion Hunter Teal travel ball team. Last year, she pitched a perfect game against a Pennsylvania team in five innings, striking out 14 of 15 batters.
Bankson said she wants to continue playing softball into college. In fact, this past weekend she visited Louisiana State University to watch the second-ranked Lady Tigers sweep the University of Mississippi.
After college and softball, she wants to work toward joining the FBI, which is one reason why she favors going to Harvard University, even though they do not have as strong of a softball tradition as LSU. If she maintains a 3.8 GPA and is still playing softball, an assistant coach has told her she could get in.
“I like to think about how other people are thinking,” Bankson said. “I’ve always wanted to be a psychologist and a police officer, and if you blend them together you get an FBI profiler.”
Bankson has a 4.25 GPA, and she said being focused in the classroom is as important to her as softball.
“If you are not focused in the classroom, you get bad grades. If you get bad grades, you can’t get into good colleges,” she said. “If you can’t get into good colleges, how the heck are you supposed to get into Harvard?”
Wade said academics are a big part of the whole team’s culture. He expects many of his girls to play college softball, and Bankson is certainly one member of this class who will have a bright future.
“She’s just a great kid,” he said. “And she doesn’t have an ego whatsoever.”