On the quiet confines of the Saint Leo College campus, a bionic arm is doing its thing.
Anne Freeburg is the woman with the arm. And by all measures it's better, stronger and more durable than anyone else's on the Monarchs' softball team.
Freeburg, a junior college transfer from Seminole Community College, is the only pitcher on the roster. In the Monarchs' 28 games, 10 of them in the Sunshine State Conference, Freeburg has pitched to every hitter.
"It's pretty amazing what she has been able to do," said Saint Leo catcher Lisa Leon, who was also with Freeburg at Seminole. "I know she's giving us all she has and that's more than enough."
Indeed she has. Freeburg, a left-hander originally from New York, has pitched 179.2 innings, is 12-16 with a 3.97 ERA and has given up 82 walks.
"I really don't think about it very much," Freeburg said. "I just go out there and pitch and try to focus on my job. Sure, I get tired but I can't think that way. I'm the only pitcher, so it's not an issue. I was nervous at first and did not know how I was going to handle this season. But I have great support and backing from my teammates."
First-year coach Kristi Wade said Freeburg's performance has been inspiring.
"What Anne has been able to do is special," Wade said. "Obviously, we would love to have at least one more pitcher to help her, or somebody to help her when she gets tired. But that's not the case. We just go to her and try to give her as much defense as possible."
The idea of a softball pitcher hurling numerous innings in a stretch is not that uncommon. The standard explanation, Wade said, is that the throwing motion in softball is a natural motion, whereas the pitching motion in baseball is unnatural and puts more strain on the elbow and shoulder.
But 179 innings?
"I think we understand just how much it takes for Anne to go out there every game so we just try to be as careful defensively as possible," Leon said. "We want to get each inning over as soon as possible."
The Monarchs have not had the best season, but don't blame the bionic arm. Freeburg has two shut outs and 34 strike outs. She has given up 227 hits, 133 runs (102 earned), 15 wild pitches and hit eight batters. Her 12 wins are the second most in the SSC, but her 16 losses are twice the number of the pitcher with the second most losses.
The Monarchs have hit .283 as a team and are sixth in the SSC in team hitting. Saint Leo has 41 extra-base hits and 77 RBI in 695 at bats.
Little of that really matters to Freeburg. Flu or headache, sore arm or sore mind, win or lose, the ball is hers to take every time the Monarchs take the field.
"Right now, we would not have much of a season if Anne isn't there for us," Wade said.
Freeburg knew her fate from the beginning of the season. When she arrived at Saint Leo as a second baseman, Freeburg quickly realized she had the only real arm on a team that had lost all of its pitchers to graduation. Freeburg, who had not pitched since her senior year at high school, was put on a rigid pre-season training program to strengthen the arm and the stamina. So far, it seems to have worked.
"She receives a lot of treatment on the arm," Wade said. "We are not paranoid and don't put any restrictions on what she can and cannot do with her arm. We just let her play her game and ask her to get as much rest as possible."
"I make sure I warm up my arm properly before the game," Freeburg said. "And I ice it down for a while at the end of every game."
Freeburg said there have been times when she has felt exhausted and wanted to give up the ball _ like Sunday against Barry University.
"They were just getting so many hits and I kept get frustrating," Freeburg said of Barry's 8-0 and 7-1 doubleheader win over Saint Leo. "I wanted to stop but just had to stick it out."
Leon, who has called most of Freeburg's games from behind the plate, said she has seen her friend get close to the point of throwing it in.
"It's been hard for her," Leon said. "I can tell it in her face when she's that tired. She would look to the bench or look at me, and you would know she just doesn't want to go any more. But there's no one to turn to. We just give her lots of positive reinforcement."