Hurler’s crafty bag of tricks

The Brooklyn Paper
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Tiffany Irrera fully understands the type of pitcher she is. A fireballer and power arm she is not.

“If I just throw my regular speed they will hit me – it’s like the batting cage,” she said. “I’m not over powering. So I need my other stuff to keep them off balance.”

The junior has plenty of pitches to choose from in her bag of tricks, with an upward of six. She is excellent in hitting her spots and setting up the next pitch. Even without overpowering stuff she has been the best pitcher in the CHSAA Brooklyn division. In four games against the league’s best teams, Fontbonne Hall and St. Edmund Prep, all wins, Irrera has allowed a total of two runs and struck out 33 batters.

“She reads the batters well,” Kearney coach Gina Trani said. “She can tell when they are leaning or off balance. She has a good idea what to throw them.”

Before the game you can watch Irrera and catcher Kristen O’Neill going through her array off pitches, drop curve, changeup, rise, etc. Irrera tells O’Neill to be ready for what’s coming. Then during the game the duo use one pitch to set up the next. Many times it’s a high fastball to keep the batter off balance for the drop curve away or a changeup.

“Most of the pitches that I throw are not meant to be strikes,” Irrera said. “They are meant for them to swing at them. The hard stuff sets it up. They are off guard once I throw the changeup.”

That specific off−speed pitch, the second pitch she said she learned, is her signature and her strikeout pitch as well. Hitters seeing her for the first time can really struggle to know when to expect it and how to time it, leading to a lot of swings and misses as it drops in. Irrera, who also bats third in the Tigers order, will sometimes dial up her fastball to make the contrast even starker.

“Her speeds are really, really different. It’s a really, really fast ball and then it’s like a lob,” St. Edmund Prep junior Emma Ferrington said.

Irrera has been one of the biggest keys to Kearney’s undefeated league record, which included two tight wins over rival Fontbonne Hall by scores of 2−1 and 1−0. She was able to work out of multiple jams in the second meeting, which included a big strikeout of Corine Fitzgibbons, one of the city’s best hitters. She will also credit her defense for helping her wiggle her way out trouble.

“They are good,” Irrera said. “They are solid. They are playing good. They saved a lot of those runners.”

The Tigers (13−0) beat Christ the King on Thursday, with Irrera on the mound, and will play defending diocesan champion St. Francis Prep at 3 p.m. Saturday in the CHSAA Brooklyn⁄Queens semifinals at Floyd Bennett Field. The Terriers will certainly see Irrera’s killer change and elusive drop ball.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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