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Southwest freshman pitcher shutting down competition

April 30, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

Heading into last week's games against Central Union and Brawley Union high schools, Southwest pitcher Melissa Lerno should have been about as nervous as anyone on her team.

Lerno is only a freshman and was set to get the starts against two of the Imperial Valley League's best teams.

Just as she's done all year, Lerno showed the poise of a veteran, leading the Eagles to wins in both games and sole possession of first place in the league.


In Southwest's 4-2 win over Central on April 23, Lerno gave up five hits and struck out four in seven innings.

As if that performance wasn't impressive enough, she followed with a three-hit, 10-strikeout gem Friday as the Eagles pulled out a 1-0 10-inning victory over Brawley.

"I knew it'd be a big week because we had Brawley and Central and both of them are really good teams," said the 14-year-old Lerno. "I knew that going into both those games I'd have to pitch as best as I could because I didn't want to let my team down."

Lerno definitely didn't let down head coach Stephanie Niebla, who in her four years as Southwest head coach had never defeated Brawley or Central.

"Last week Melissa did a very good job. She's only a freshman but she stepped up to the mound and did her job," said Niebla. "Even though she is a freshman, I'm not surprised at all with her success because I had seen her play before (she got to high school) and knew that she had that drive and dedication to be successful."

Lerno has helped lead the Eagles to a 5-2 mark in IVL, a game and a half ahead of second-place Palo Verde. For the season Lerno has compiled a .769 winning percentage with a 1.11 ERA and has been even more impressive in league with 0.45 ERA.

"I know that every game we play is going to be hard and we need to take every game serious," said Lerno. "We need to take every game the same. There isn't one that's bigger than the other. They're all tough and they're all important to us."

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