NEW PORT RICHEY — She's the pitcher who would strike out batters without looking.
Ashley Antczak's funky pitching motion consisted of the turn to third base just before the Nature Coast ace would unload a fireball across home plate.
That was two seasons ago.
Last year she tinkered with the delivery, mostly to avoid injury, and the result was a tough season.
"When I turned my head to the side, it made my body turn to the side," Antczak said. "My turning foot was completely turned. I could possibly blow out my left knee."
Last year she finished 16-12 with a 2.36 ERA, 147 strikeouts and 199 hits.
More than a year later, Antczak finally seems to have made the adjustment. Sometimes when she throws there's the hint of the old twist-and-fire. But Thursday against River Ridge, Antczak was rolling before rain forced the game's postponement until the end of the month.
Antczak had thrown 21 pitches — 16 for strikes — allowing just one hit in two innings.
This season, Antczak is 8-5 with a 1.84 ERA and has allowed 83 hits with 17 walks.
Sharks catcher Jen Marshall, who has caught Antczak every year, sees the improvement.
"She's matured more," Marshall said. "… She's moving the ball a lot better. By moving her head and not doing the sideways thing anymore, it's really helped. She can see her footwork and it's doing a lot for her."
Most would agree Antczak's funky style was a distraction to batters, and in all likelihood just as menacing as a screwball.
"It was confusing even for me seeing it," Marshall said. "I'm like, 'How do you know how to throw the ball?' She's still pretty good."
And that's why Antczak has pitched almost every inning of every game for the Sharks the past three seasons.
"She has changed a lot," Sharks coach Mettina Couet said. "She used to be a big-time screwball pitcher. Now she's a curveball pitcher.
"She's definitely changed a lot."
Izzy Gould can be reached out at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.