ASHEBORO — With perennial powers Southwestern Randolph, Eastern Randolph and Providence Grove in the same conference, Uwharrie Charter Academy varsity softball coach Chris Brewer said he knew even before the season started if the Eagles were going to contend, he was going to need a standout effort from junior Molly Bulla.
A standout effort is exactly what Brewer and the Eagles are getting.
Heading into action this week, Bulla is hitting a robust .522 (24-for-46) with 17 runs scored, 20 RBIs, nine doubles and three home runs for the Eagles, who split PAC games last week by topping Randleman and falling to Eastern Randolph. The split left the Eagles 6-4 in PAC play and 10-6 overall
“She is one of my go-to's,” said Brewer, who is in his first year as head coach. “I need her to step up and she’s been doing a great job of that all year. In this conference, there are no gimmes. It’s murderer’s row.”
Bulla is a three-year performer for the Eagles, excelling at the plate and on the mound. In the circle this year, she is 3-3, having thrown 56 1/3 innings. She has allowed just 12 earned runs for an ERA of 1.49 and she has walked only 11 while striking out 90.
Bulla said she knew she would have to perform well this year, but she is quick to point out the importance of every player on the Eagles’ roster.
“I think I came in knowing I am going to have to be better than I was last year, but I also have a group of girls behind me that is always working with me,” Bulla said. “Even if I am not at my best at that moment, I have girls that come in and clean it up if need be. That has made things mentally easier for me.”
UCA is coming off an 8-10 season last year, but has already recorded a number of impressive performances as the PAC season begins to wind down.
UCA recorded a 4-2 win over Eastern Randolph, beat West Davidson (which is undefeated in the Central Carolina Conference) and played Southwestern Randolph (the 17th-ranked team in the country, according to the latest Max Preps poll) to a hard-fought 4-3 setback.
UCA has outscored opponents this year 135-52.
“When you have a kid like her who can hit it to all fields, they know they can’t leave anything up to her because she will make them pay,” Brewer said. “It’s great to have her in the three hole. Other coaches don’t like to pitch to her. She works hard on pitching and hitting and with the glove.”
Her pitching has been impressive.
“I am what is considered a vertical pitcher,” Bulla said, noting she began pitching at age 6. “I am a riseball, changeup, drop ball pitcher. I do have lateral pitches, a curveball and a screwball, but I’m definitely more of a vertical pitcher and I like to mix in my changeup.”
Bulla has done the bulk of the pitching this year for the Eagles, which means she needs to find ways to maintain a tough mentality. Grinding through the PAC season is no easy task as talented offenses are waiting every week.
“What helps me most is my music,” Bulla said. “I always make sure the music is on over here when I’m warming up and you can see me get in a groove and you may see me dancing. That and what really keeps me up mentally are the girls. They are always so positive minded and ready for the game and they cheer me every game. That’s what helps me.”
Brewer said he can see a marked improvement from Bulla over her high school career.
“I have seen her grow a lot from her freshman year,” Brewer said. “A lot more pitches have been developed and there are more strikeouts and the runs are way down. She is putting in the work and it is paying off.
“Her intensity in the circle is just phenomenal. Her demeanor. The whole team has a lot of confidence when she is in the circle and they believe in her like she believes in them.”
That’s a nice combination.