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Decade’s best No. 2: Brooke Koch was nearly untouchable for Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore class valedictorian, Brooke Koch, felt nervous while addressing her 2010 classmates. It was ironic because whenever Koch pitched she epitomized poise.

Koch put together the best single-season area pitching performance last decade when she helped Jersey Shore reach its first and only state championship. That was the only year last decade that Koch played, but it was more than enough to earn her a spot on this list because she conducted a season-long pitching clinic while also hitting .460.

“I’m a lot more calm when I’m pitching. I belong in my cleats, but I was freaking out before my speech,” Koch said after throwing a four-hitter and striking out 11 in a 3-2 Class AAA Eastern Final win against Palisades. “My parents are always like how can you be so calm when you’re pitching, but you have to keep your composure on the mound.”

Koch always did and was virtually untouchable all season, going 20-2 with a 0.42 ERA and a program-record 332 strikeouts. Along the way, the hard-throwing right-hander tossed a perfect game, five no hitters and 11 shutouts while holding 20 teams to five hits or fewer.

Earlier in this decade-best series, this 2010 Jersey Shore team earned the top ranking. The Bulldogs were loaded offensively and defensively. And Koch was the engine powering this Porsche. One run often was all she needed and she was at her best throughout a dominant postseason run, throwing two shutouts, never allowing more than two earned runs and stifling nearly every threat that came up.

That included in the seventh inning against Palisades after Koch surrendered a two-out single and the tying run reached base. Unfazed, Koch struck out the next hitter and almost immediately found herself at the bottom of a dog pile as the Bulldogs clinched the biggest win in program history and won their 21st straight game.

“When I went out to the mound Brooke said ‘It’s OK you came out here, but I missed the pitch, she took advantage of it and it’s not going to happen again,'” former Jersey Shore coach Jeremy Lazorka said. “I was like, ‘OK.’ That’s all that needed to be said.”

That was Koch. The 2009-10 all-state selection featured a devastating repertoire of pitches, but she was as lethal with her mind as with her arm. Koch was a pitcher’s pitcher, understanding she could not simply go out and overpower every hitter with her speed. Koch approached pitching like an artist and so often produced masterpieces, moving the ball up, down, inside and outside while keeping hitters guessing.

“I talked to Jeremy about it and he said what separates a good pitcher from a great pitcher is a great pitcher doesn’t miss,” Koch said. “I try and hit my spots every time and as a senior try to be a leader and keep everyone’s attitude up.”

Koch’s cool but competitive demeanor flowed through the team and Jersey Shore won a series of close games that year, including three straight in the state tournament by one run. At times, Koch seemed like a bionic woman, complementing her talent and intelligence with toughness. On consecutive days that year, she struck out 45 and threw 19 straight no-hit innings in victories against Montoursville and State College. Those games lasted a combined 24 innings and she also threw consecutive no-hitters earlier in the season. Koch went into overdrive down the stretch and topped 10 strikeouts in each of her 22 starts that season.

“It’s so exciting for Jersey Shore because we never made it this far and it’s such a big deal for us, especially for the seniors because we won’t be coming back to school,” Koch said. “We want to leave our mark so this was the way to do it.”

Koch helped Jersey Shore do it as both a pitcher and leader. She was a great pitcher, hitter, fielder, but also was a good friend and someone who could bring out the best in her teammates. Humble and polite, Koch never viewed herself as anything than just one of the players. What made her happiest is knowing her success was the team’s success.

“She’s one of my best friends and even off the field if something bad is going on with one of girls she steps up and asks what’s going on and will try to help just like I will and the other seniors will,” senior center fielder Chrissy Lauer said. “Brooke’s awesome. She’s a great girl.”

Koch went on to pitch at St. Francis and had Jersey Shore three outs from winning a state championship, taking a one-hitter into the seventh inning of the state final against Bellefonte. Some unlucky bounces, two errors and a controversial call, however, doomed Jersey Shore in the seventh as Bellefonte rallied from down two and won, 3-2.

At that point, Koch and her teammates hardly needed another banner to validate themselves as champions. Jersey Shore features one of the state’s premier softball traditions and carving out a unique place in history there is difficult since so many great teams and players have come before.

Koch and her teammates did it. This was their dream season come to life. And now it is other area pitchers who dream of enjoying seasons as dominant as the one Koch produced in 2010.

“You know that Jersey Shore softball has a good program every year,” Koch said. “When we get to the high school level we just know that they expect a lot from our team. We know that we have the whole community following us and I feel proud to say I play Jersey Shore softball.”

You better believe that feeling is reciprocal.

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