When Mt. Pisgah’s baseball coach says Sandy Almon “doesn’t throw like a girl,” it’s meant as a compliment.
Almon is a girl, and she plays varsity baseball at the Class A private school in Johns Creek. For her senior year, Almon transferred to Mt. Pisgah, where she is a relief pitcher reportedly with 85-mph fastball. She is also a part-time starter at third base.
“We haven’t clocked her yet, but she throws with nice velocity, probably consistently in the lower 80s on her fastball,” Mt. Pisgah coach John O’Connor said. “She is smooth with her mechanics and looks like any other high school pitcher out there on the mound, except that she’s a girl.”
Almon had made three pitching appearances prior to Thursday night’s game against Pace Academy. The right-handed pitcher had a 2-0 record with a 1.17 ERA, striking out nine batters in six innings against Riverside Military Academy, Callaway and Missouri’s Barat Academy.
“I think she’s legitimate,” said Joey Hamilton, a former major league pitcher and one of Almon’s personal coaches. “She has a lot of work ahead of her that needs to be done. But I’ve seen and coached with a lot of boys pitchers the same age, and she has got just as much or more talent than half of them.”
When Mt. Pisgah traveled to Florida for games over spring break, Almon was the starting pitcher for the final game of the trip. She was nervous and walked the first batter. The opposing team, Barat, tried to rattle her by ordering a bunt from the next hitter.
Almon charged from the mound for a diving catch for the first out, and then fired a throw to first base from her knees in time to complete a double play. She pitched three scoreless innings and belted a two-run double in the 17-0 win.
“I love baseball; it’s my favorite sport and always has been,” Almon said. “I don’t know how to explain it other to say that baseball just comes natural to me. Other sports, like basketball, are work. Baseball is not that way.”
Almon is the youngest of seven kids, and has played baseball for youth, recreational and travel teams since she was 3. As a high school freshman, she played on the junior varsity at North Cobb. Almon was told she wasn’t good enough to make the varsity the next two years.
Last summer, Almon’s baseball career was revived when she tried out and made Mt. Pisgah’s club team. After an outing against a Gainesville-area team, the home-plate umpire approached Almon and said, “I’ve officiated for 27 years. I’ve never seen a girl play at this level, and I’ve never seen a girl pitch with that authority. You did a great job and I look forward to reading about you one day.”
Almon transferred to Mt. Pisgah for her senior year because of baseball and academic opportunities. Her mother wanted smaller class sizes for her and more individual attention from teachers. Mt. Pisgah has 250 students in grades 9-12.
Almon made an immediate impact in girls sports at Mt. Pisgah. She played fast-pitch softball for the first time and hit a grand slam in her first plate appearance. She was considered one of the region’s best defensive players at third base and attracted interest from several colleges, including Georgia. In basketball, Almon averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds per game.
She turned to baseball, and O’Connor, a first-year coach, was open to the idea of having a girl on his team. Mt. Pisgah had to make cuts for the first time in the program’s history, but Almon earned one of the 19 varsity spots.
“Her baseball skills are above average for a high school player,” O’Connor said.
Mt. Pisgah’s players have fun with a unique situation. When Almon strikes out a batter, they will sometimes yell, “Atta girl!”
In one of the Florida games, Almon had a check swing and the umpire called out, “He didn’t go.” Players in the Mt. Pisgah dugout responded, “It’s she, ump!” Almon had to step out of the batter’s box and smile and laugh.