Freshman pitcher Amy Harre learning to harness wild streak to become league’s dominant hurler

By Gus Bode

In the classic baseball movie Major League, Ricky Vaughn was given the nickname Wild Thing because his upper 90’s fastball would end up everywhere except the catcher’s mitt.

Vaughn would bean batter after batter and throw pitch after pitch to the backstop. Eventually, after buying a pair of glasses, Vaughn was able to harness his talent and become one of the premier pitchers in the league.

Luckily for SIU, its own Wild Thing didn’t need to buy glasses before straightening out and has already become one of the premier pitchers in the Missouri Valley Conference in just her freshman season.


Amy Harre, a native of nearby Nashville, comes out to the song Wild Thing because it is what the fans used to sing when she first started pitching back in junior high school.

When I was starting to pitch in fifth grade and I walked every batter that was up to bat or hit them, our little boys would be back there singing Wild Thing, joked the freshman. I’m not kidding. I hit everybody, I walked everybody. People quit because I was hitting them so much and because I threw so hard. It was kind of funny.

Now, as the Salukis’ staff ace, Harre boasts a mark of 15-8 and a mind-boggling 0.66 ERA in 158.1 innings pitched. Harre has also topped out at 70 miles per hour over the summer, although she has yet to be timed this spring.

So far this season, Harre has been able to harness her wildness, throwing 11 wild pitches, hitting four batters and walking only 39 compared to 140 strikeouts.

I have always had a terrible time with control and that’s the thing we’re working on, the thing we’re trying to establish, Harre said. Just because [the catchers] call them inside does not mean it’s going inside and that’s probably the thing that has made me effective this year, and yeah, at times it’s made me ineffective too.

Harre isn’t the first ultra-talented Saluki pitcher with a wild streak. She is just the latest in a recent legacy of great Saluki pitchers following Carisa Winters and Erin Stremsterfer.

Senior catcher Karrie Fortman has caught for all three of them, and said as a freshman, Harre already stacks up to the former greats. She also said catching for the other two helped prepare her for Harre’s occasional wildness.


I can pretty much thank Carisa Winters and Erin Stremsterfer because I’m prepared for wild pitchers and crazy pitches and setting up low and outside and the pitch coming high and inside, Fortman said. It’s nothing I’m not used to just because we’ve always had crazy pitchers like that.

While Winters and Stremsterfer shared in Harre’s wildness, neither enjoyed as successful a freshman year as Harre.

In their respective freshman campaigns, Winters went 9-11 with a 1.97 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 128 innings pitched while Stremsterfer went 11-6 with a 1.42 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 118.1 innings pitched.

The comparisons between the three are inevitable, but yet, SIU head coach Kerri Blaylock is reluctant to compare her three pupils.

I hate making comparisons with people because they’re all so unique in what they do, Blaylock said. Amy throws the ball harder than both of those guys do. What she needs to develop is if she develops a changeup like both of those kids had, she’ll be phenomenal and that’s what we’re working really, really hard at.

The thought of Harre adding another weapon to her repertoire is sure to cause several MVC coaches to lose sleep. Harre has already been named the conference’s pitcher of the week four times this season, including the past two weeks, and leads the conference in ERA and saves. She is also in the top four in wins and strikeouts per seven innings.

On top of that, in the national softball rankings released April 14, Harre’s ERA of 0.56 was the fourth lowest in all of Division I softball. While it has since risen to 0.66, that is still good enough for her to remain in the top 10. Her eight saves also has her tied for second in the country.

Harre said she was humbled when she saw the rankings, but wouldn’t be in such good shape without the help of her defense.

I would have never expected that ever; it was a great honor, Harre said. It all goes back to when you have girls diving and making great plays behind you. They don’t see that and they don’t know that and any other day that might have been a hit for a girl and it would’ve been an earned run, except my shortstop made the play and we got out of it.

Blaylock said she is not surprised Harre, who chose SIU over Kentucky and Northwestern, has been so successful so quick, and thinks the best is still to come.

I think she has every capability of being an All-American, Blaylock said. I don’t think there’s any question.

While Harre may now be on the fast track to becoming one of the nation’s best, softball wasn’t what she wanted to do at first.

Prior to starting her playing days when she was in the second grade, Harre wanted to be on the sidelines cheering instead of playing.

I actually wanted to be a cheerleader and my parents just kind of entered me in little league and said just go try it for something different, Harre said. Ever since then I’ve just always been playing … then my coach in junior high said I think you need to go take pitching lessons because of my build and my stature so I did that.

Besides Harre’s stature on the mound she stands at 6-foot her constant smile is another trademark.

That’s just always been my signature, Harre said. I always think that you have to enjoy what you’re doing and for me to have a smile on my face, that’s showing that I’m enjoying what I’m doing.

No matter the situation, whether the bases are empty with a 10-run lead or the bases are loaded with no one out in a one-run game, Harre is sure to be flashing that trademark grin.

The girls on the team always say we would absolutely hate hitting against you because you are always smiling and you strike a girl out and you smile and they get a hit off of you and you’re smiling,’ Harre said. We would just want to rip the smile off your face.’

However, once she goes into her windup, the smile stops because Harre knows it’s time to get to business. That smile turns into a scowl and everyone hears her other trademark, a growl as she releases the ball.

That growl is usually the last thing the hitter notices as the ball sails past.

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]