Standing 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders and a strong frame, senior Mason Robinson intimidates many of her opponents while pitching and hitting for the Olentangy Orange High School softball team.
When Robinson steps inside the circle to pitch, opposing batters often stand two feet off the plate.
When Robinson walks to the plate to bat, opposing infielders and outfielders usually take several steps backward.
"Anytime you're facing a tall pitcher there's an intimidation factor, especially when that pitcher throws as hard as Mason does," coach Bruce Leary said. "Mason's very intimidating at the plate, too, because she's strong and when she connects with the ball, she just rips it."
Robinson, who said she purposely uses her size to gain a psychological advantage on the field, describes herself as a "gentle giant" who goes out of her way to be friendly to everyone. She also is interested in becoming a special-education teacher.
"When I'm on a softball field, I put on a mask and try to be intimidating and I've heard a lot of people say things like: 'Oh my gosh, that girl is so tall and scary,'" Robinson said. "I use that to my advantage, but it's funny because I'm not intimidating at all once you get to know me. I'm really laid-back and I'm a peacemaker among my friends. I don't ever want to hurt anyone's feelings, much less try to hurt anyone in a softball game by hitting them with a pitch or hitting the ball at them."
Robinson said she mostly served as a backup while playing travel softball when she was younger, but she emerged as Orange's starting pitcher as a freshman after she grew six inches in a six-month span to reach 6 feet tall.
She had a breakthrough season a year ago, batting .348 while going 23-3 with a 0.83 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 167 2/3 innings. She was first-team all-state and all-district in Division I and first-team all-OCC-Capital Division.
Robinson received several scholarship offers and signed with Murray State, which is in Kentucky. The NCAA Division I program competes in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"I was an average bench player when I was younger, but I've progressed some every year to get to this point," Robinson said. "I couldn't have done this without my dad (Mike). He's coached me since I was little and he drove me all over the country to compete in softball tournaments."
Robinson has worked to increase the speed of her fastball to 64 mph and, after she noticed more experienced batters were beginning to crowd the plate to try to hit her drop-curve, she began working on an inside screwball to keep them honest.
"Mason Robinson's probably the best pitcher we've faced this year," said Olentangy coach Alan Tharp, whose team lost to Orange 8-1 on April 10. "Her size is very intimidating (in the circle) and she throws harder than most people. What really sets her apart is she has good movement. She throws a good drop-ball and a little bit of off-speed pitches to keep kids off-balance."
Through 15 games this season, Robinson was batting .600 with 20 RBI, 13 walks to only four strikeouts and a .729 on-base percentage.
"Being a pitcher really helps my hitting because I usually can figure out what kind of pitches are coming by watching where the pitcher is standing and how they deliver the pitch," she said. "My size helps, too, because some girls are afraid to pitch to me. I usually get walked more than anyone else on my team even though I have the biggest strike zone."
In her first 12 pitching starts this season, Robinson was 11-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 81 innings.
The Pioneers won 12 of their first 16 games.
"I didn't want people to think that we were a Cinderella team that came out of nowhere to have one big year, so I worked hard all year to try to make sure I can get the same stats and awards I did last year to help our team be just as successful," said Robinson, whose squad finished 25-4 overall last year after losing to Central Crossing 4-1 in a Division I district final. "I want to become a two-time all-state player and help our team win its first district championship."