Erin Seiler was 9 years old when she decided she wanted to be a pitcher.
The trouble was, she played on a youth baseball team with boys, and her father, Jon Seiler, told her that if she wanted to pitch she probably needed to make a switch to girls fastpitch softball.
Eight years later, both of their ideas have paid off in a major way.
Seiler, in her fourth season as the No. 1 starter at Central Catholic, recorded the 1,000th strikeout of her career, the second of 13 batters she fanned in a 4-3 Irish win Saturday at Perrysburg.
According to Ohio High School Athletic Association records, Seiler is just the 18th softball pitcher in state history to eclipse 1,000 career strikeouts.
"Honestly, it hasn't quite sunk in yet," Seiler said. "To hit that goal is awesome. I didn't know I was only the 18th pitcher to do that in Ohio history. That's what shocked me the most. It's an honor to even get that far."
The all-time Ohio strikeouts leader is Rocky River's Leah Black, who fanned 1,381 from 1996-99.
Second on that list is Gibsonburg's Jamie Wonderly, who struck out 1,264 batters from 2000-03 while hurling the Golden Bears to three straight Division IV state championships (2001-03) before pitching at Butler University.
Ranking No. 6 on the list is Delta's Amy Mattin, who fanned 1,187 batters from 2002-05.
"That's a ridiculously high number," said junior Rachael Drenner, Central's catcher. "Erin's one of 18 pitchers in Ohio to do that. That's really an amazing feat.
"I love being her catcher. She helps me with the things that I need to do, too. She's not just a pitcher, she's a team player. She knows the different positions and she helps everyone. She's a great captain for the team."
Seiler, who played on her first travel team in softball at age 11, began a regimen of two to three pitching workout sessions a week that year beyond her action in games. It was the start of a work ethic that she maintains to the present day.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
"Erin has been successful because she puts so much time and effort into it," Central coach Larry Jaworski said. "The first year I coached her was as an 11-year-old in her first year of travel ball.
"Even back then she would put two or three days a week into her pitching."
Seiler's work has produced a 55-29 career record with 1,011 strikeouts in 563⅔ innings (1.8 strikeouts per inning), and a 0.91 ERA.
Three times she has been named All-City League first team, twice she was picked as Central's team most valuable player, and last season she was voted the CL's pitcher of the year.
With the Irish now competing in the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference, Seiler and her teammates have their eyes on winning Central's first league title since 2000.
The Irish are also hoping for a lengthy tournament run. How long?
Seiler and her teammates have a number in mind, 139 to be exact. That is the distance in miles from Toledo to Akron, the site of the state softball final four.
Tournament runs aside, Seiler will get to Akron regardless. In the fall she signed a scholarship offer to pitch at the University of Akron.
For now, she is trying to digest her recent milestone while continuing her role as Central's leader. She is team captain for the third year, and it is a duty she takes seriously.
Seiler's excellence does not stop at the pitching circle. She is the Irish's leading hitter at .435 with a team-best 14 RBIs. She also excels in the classroom, where she carries a cumulative 4.6 grade-point average, ranking her 10th in her senior class.
She plans to pursue a double major in marketing and sports studies at Akron and, after completing her bachelor's degree there, her goal is to enroll in law school and eventually become a sports agent or a marketing representative for the NFL or Major League Baseball.
Seiler's pursuit to be a pitcher began in an unlikely place.
"My dad went to the library and took out all the books and videos of instructions that he could find, and he taught me how to pitch."
As a freshman, Seiler took on the job of No. 1 starter for the Irish, something that required a brief adjustment period.
"Starting out as a freshman I was scared to death about throwing to high school girls," Seiler said. "It took about five games to get over that.
"What I was mostly afraid of was my teammates, because they were all upperclassmen, and I was this little quiet freshman. I tried not to make anyone mad.
"There were some all-star players, like Ashley Sujkowski and Ashley Whit- aker and Emily Sifuentes. I stayed quiet because I knew, if I got a big head, they'd be the first ones to keep me in line."
With Seiler posting a 17-8 record, the 19-9 Irish advanced to the Division II regional semifinals. She fanned 255 batters in a career season-high 170⅓ innings and posted a an impressive 0.86 ERA.
It was after this first-year output that Seiler first considered the possibility of reaching 1,000 strikeouts.
"After my freshman year I saw that I had 200 and some strikeouts, and I started doing the math," Seiler said about considering the possibility. "Then I thought I'd only get like 800. But it was a goal for me to work for."
As it turned out, the milestone was within reach, and now Seiler has a reasonable shot at finishing among the top 10 in the state record book.
Seiler's work ethic and attention to detail have contributed to a mound presence that goes beyond just throwing a softball.
"One of her abilities is remembering hitters she's pitched to in the past and what they hit off of her," Jaworski said. "She makes mental notes, and she knows what pitches are effective against them. She knows what they can and can't hit. She's very much a student of the game.
"She has a fastball, rise ball, curve, drop, a rise pitch that goes out, and a changeup. She has about six or seven pitches with little variations to all of them."
Seiler has turned her arsenal into eight career no-hitters, including one this season against Findlay. She has also pitched 13 one-hitters.
"When you have a pitcher of her caliber, striking out 14 batters a game, that's 14 less hitters who have an opportunity to get on base," Jaworski said. "In northwest Ohio I would have to say she's the best pitcher around this year. She's a very good team player. She doesn't believe in 'me' or 'I.' It's about the entire team. She is going to be a very tough player to replace next year."
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.