Senior pitching phenom Sarah Sterman’s discman has been on repeat lately, blaring the high energy beats of Republica’s 1996 hit “Ready to Go.” It’s a song that might as well have been playing the moment she took the mound for Cornell three years ago.
As a freshman, Sterman made an instant impact on a team that was already laden with talent. Winning 14 games, with an ERA of 2.02 she was a valuable component of that 2001 Ivy League Championship team.
Yet the transition from high school to college was far from easy for her. Eager to get the job done on the mound, Sterman found out the hard way that she couldn’t just blow right by batters at the college level. In high school, Sterman had been a windmill pitcher whose best pitch was a nasty drop ball, but in college, she had to redefine her game by adding a curve and rise-ball to her repertoire while virtually abandoning the drop-ball.
“It was tough my freshman year because I just wanted to get up there and get everyone out and not waste any time, “Sterman recalled. “I learned the hard way that the hitters are faster than you are and you’ve got to be able to finesse and to throw some other stuff.”
Under the guidance of head coach Dick Blood, and the mentorship of fellow pitcher Nicole Zitarelli ’01, Sterman made the necessary adjustments to jump from a promising prospect to a full-blown ace. 2002 was a breakout year for the sophomore, as she won 22 games and set four Cornell records. She also strung together an amazing 39 1/3 shutout innings, to which Sterman says most of the credit goes to the defense that plays behind her.
After a 19-4 2003 season in which the Red fell one game short of the Ivy crown, Sterman enters her last year at Cornell with one thing on her mind: an Ivy championship. Also in her thoughts will be the defending Ivy champion, Princeton, which Sterman has yet to beat in her three years at Cornell.
“Winning the Ivy title my freshman year was probably the single greatest moment we shared as a team,” Sterman said. “I definitely want to win the Ivy title this year, and I definitely think we can. We have a really solid team back from last year.”
Sterman has come a long way from the eager freshman who wanted to sit down the opposition 1-2-3. She now works regularly deep into the counts, feeling comfortable going 2-2 or even 3-2 with any hitter.
“Sarah has been rock solid for us for the three years she’s been here,” head coach Dick Blood said of his star pitcher. “She has impeccable control and works every pitch that she throws. She comes to play everyday.”
Sterman herself sees the transformation in her pitching.
“I understand now that the first pitch I throw in a count is important. I throw a lot deeper into counts. I don’t waste anytime, but I also concentrate more on each pitch,” she said.
As a senior, Sterman has also seen another transformation, this time off the field. The girls on the team have a nickname for her — it’s “Mama Sterm.” She has assumed her role as team mother with pleasure, answering the little things like how many aspirin to take, or what equipment to bring on road trip because, as always, Mama knows best.
If there’s a player to watch for in 2004, it’s Sarah Sterman because, with eight returning starters around her, and her lucky game socks washed and clean, “baby, she’s ready to go.”
Archived article by Paul Testa