LORDSTOWN - Bristol High freshman Ashlyn Slusher pitches like a seasoned veteran.
Frankly, she is.
She's pitched in travel leagues, and her Diamond Devils summer team has been undefeated for the past three years.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Bristol’s Laura Slusher lays down a bunt and makes it to first base safely during the first inning of the Panthers’ 4-2 victory over Lordstown on Monday.
The success has continued to the varsity level and, with a nine strikeout 4-2 win over Lordstown on Monday, Slusher has guided the Panthers to a 5-0 record.
"Hopefully we'll be undefeated for the rest of the year," she said.
But the confidence hasn't always been there.
"My heart was pounding during my first start and I still get nervous before games," Slusher said.
She does have 29 strikeouts on the year and a nearly automatic defense behind her.
"We have her back," said sophomore catcher Kylie Stoneman. "She is so consistent, especially for a freshman."
Bristol coach Debbie Rowles had no reservations trotting out a 14-year old to open the season.
"I knew she was coming up through and I've watched her play, so I was comfortable with her out there," Rowles said. "She has no intimidation; nothing gets to her at all."
Senior Megan Adams led off the game with a single and Slusher reached on a walk. Then, Stoneman had a bases-clearing double. Lauren Slusher and Steffanlee Markowitz added singles in the first inning and Stoneman and Laurin Elza scored, leading to an early 4-0 lead.
"I tell the girls every game, 'we cannot play behind,'" Rowles said. "They came out swinging, which was great."
Stoneman added, "It's exciting when you can go through the whole batting order."
The sizable, early lead helped in the bottom of the seventh when Lordstown's Ally Hajnosz and Brandy Pursell reached base on errors. Hajnosz scored on a botched pickoff attempt - the first run allowed by Bristol all year.
Chyanne Ensign drove home Pursell before Slusher retired the final two batters.
"We'll see (Slusher) again," said Lordstown first-year head coach Dave Harrison. "She had a lot of good rise-balls. We only had three ground outs and the rest were pop-ups. We'll learn to keep our hands on top of the rise-ball and it will be a different game.
"I think the way we battled at the end can carry on for us."
Hailey Toporcer had 13 strikeouts for the Red Devils (3-3) and added a triple. Hajnosz, the catcher, threw out three Panthers trying to steal second.
"She's got a gun back there," Harrison said.
Stoneman, Markowitz and Adams all had a pair of hits for Bristol.
Lordstown's next game is Friday at Bloomfield, while the Panthers return home today to face Southington.
"This season has been amazing so far," said Bristol freshman Stephanie Hulic. "I never thought I'd be sitting on the bench with these guys. It's been so much fun and we want to keep the winning going."