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For Hart, passion for pitching grows each year

Attention to her craft and dedication to improve have turned Brittany Hart into Bryant University’s most reliable softball pitcher.

David Silverman

Attention to her craft and dedication to improve have turned Brittany Hart into Bryant University’s most reliable softball pitcher.

Brittany Hart throws a reliable screwball, mixed with a handful of other pitches she has been hurling since she began pitching more than a dozen years ago. Her arsenal is no secret. And there is nothing flashy about it.

For the past three seasons at Bryant University, Hart, a graduate of North Andover’s Brooks School, has struck out fewer than one batter every two innings.

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What Hart has cannot be measured in statistics. It is why she does not pay attention to them. Numbers cannot measure how much effort she has poured into her mechanics, or how much sweat she shed throwing side sessions with Megan Biddle, an art teacher in North Andover who moonlights as a private pitching instructor.

Every summer since Biddle can remember, Hart has called asking for guidance. Every year Biddle finds something new, the kinks are worked out, and a new delivery takes shape.

Four years of college have passed and Hart has used four different deliveries.

She finally found the perfect motion. It was hiding in there somewhere; Hart was sure of it. It just took some time to find it.

That is passion.

“By late June, she’s already contacting me, ‘Can we throw? Do you mind throwing?’ ” Biddle said. “It’s funny, sometimes. You’re a senior; a lot can happen. You get distracted. Life kicks in. But she’s on it.

“It’s very interesting watching her get more and more passionate. Some kids get more burned out as time goes on.”

A Globe All-Scholastic in 2007 and 2009, Hart made an immediate impact at Bryant, the Rhode Island school that moved from Division 2 to Division 1 in 2009 and will have a chance to qualify for the Northeast Conference tournament this year for the first time, after a four-year probation period.

Hart has always been a solid, consistent pitcher that longtime Bryant coach Lisa-Ann Wallace said she feels comfortable using in any situation.

While the Bulldogs have struggled at times, going 58-95 over the past four years, including a 5-12 start this season, Hart has a winning record (28-27) for her career.

“She can keep us in games and has gotten us out of some pretty tight situations,” said Wallace. “She’s a pressure pitcher. She’s able to make her pitches in tough situations when the game is on the line. She’s been pretty consistent about that.”

The ice in her blood comes from practice and persistence, part of a commitment to consistency that she has made to herself.

Once she realized that college softball was different from high school, that striking out 12 batters a game was an occasion reserved for blue moons, it was easy to focus on what she could control: limiting her walks.

In 363 career innings at Bryant (through Wednesday), Hart has walked just 91 batters (fewer than two walks per seven innings).

With the ability to pick her spots and confuse hitters, Hart has been called a calm player with a pit-bull mentality hiding inside.

“She has a great poker face,” Biddle said, “which makes her very hard to coach at first but we have our own language now.

“She’s so precise. She really stays within her realm whether she is throwing strikes, painting a corner. She’s very meticulous.”

It is her attention to detail that would not let her stay content with one delivery. She and Biddle finally struck gold this summer, when they realized Hart was wasting energy with her upper body when she could actually gain more power by using her leg strength.

“I threw one pitch and I looked at [Biddle] and she said, ‘That’s it, we’ve got it,’ ” Hart said. “Before I used to swing my arms back pretty far, and that didn’t give me the opportunity to drive off the mound as hard. So we did a hybrid combination of swinging my arms back to an extent, but letting my legs drive the motion.

“That’s a huge part of softball. People think you can just whip your arm around. But if you’re not driving you won’t get anywhere.”

With a 3.36 ERA through 11 starts this season, Hart is on track to have her best season yet. Paired with the most talented squad she has been on at Bryant, the Bulldogs could make some noise if their bats up heat up with the weather.

They can count on Hart.

“A delivery is kind of like a puzzle, if you will,” Hart said. “You have a good foundation, then you kind of add a piece every year. This year it’s all together.

“I really feel like this is the hardest I’ve ever thrown. I feel the most confident I’ve ever felt.”

Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@yahoo.com.
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