By DAVE MORRISON

he comparisons aren’t lost on Liberty freshman pitcher Paige Maynard.

Everyone has heard it: Maynard is the next Holly Brehm.

Most people within the area softball scene readily concede these comparisons with Wyoming East’s senior ace are fact.

Hard to argue.

It goes beyond the obvious physical characteristics, which are eerily similar. Both are lanky fireballing righties who have been clocked regularly in the mid-60s.

The numbers early on this season bear some similarities.

Maynard is now 4-1 with 63 strikeouts and an ERA just north of 1.00. She has given up just six runs, and three of those came in the 3-0 loss to Brehm and the Warriors Saturday afternoon.

Brehm is now 3-1, with 49 strikeouts and has yet to yield an earned run. The two runs PikeView scored in the Warriors lone loss Friday came on three errors. In fact, Brehm has only given up three hits in four games.

It’s probably not a surprise that both have the same pitching coach, Jerry Johnson in Beckley. And, I guess to make things just a little more similar they both struck out 13 Saturday.

After the Lady Warriors’ win, Wyoming East coach Doc Warner didn’t mince words.

“(Maynard) is the real deal,” Warner said. “She is the best I’ve seen since Holly.”

Pretty heady stuff because, let’s face it, Brehm is one of the state’s elite pitchers and has already signed a Division 1 scholarship with Ohio University. Maynard is just getting started.

“I really appreciate that,” Maynard said. “It really boosts my confidence.”

She laughed, still a little embarrassed by the comparison and the notoriety which will grow with every win.

Brehm knows how that goes. She has been there and she has been great, with a proven mound record.

She is now 57-13 with 873 strikeouts 19 no hitters, 33 shutouts and has given up just 130 hits. The stat that always amazes me is she has more hits at the plate than she has given up on the mound (136-130).

The one thing all that experience does is it ensures you have seen every possible situation. Like pitching out of trouble and not getting a little anxious when team’s mount a rally.

And that might be the one lesson that Maynard is still learning. How to pitch out of trouble.

Take the bottom of the second for instance.

Trinity Cook led off with a single for the Warriors and it got by the left fielder, allowing her to get to second. Perhaps a bit unnerved, a wild pitch by Maynard allowed Cook to get to third. She scored on a sharp liner off the first baseman’s glove to the second baseman that went as an unassisted putout but allowed Cook to score the first run. Kelli Cameron followed with a single, went to second on a sacrifice, third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. Like that it was 2-0, typically enough for Brehm.

Fast foreword a half inning. A leadoff walk, sacrifice and a single gave Liberty its best chance with runners on the corners, the heart of the order due up. Brehm simply ended the uprising with a strikeout.

Those are the things that experience teaches you.

Brehm remembers being that precocious freshman phenom and the experiences she faced coming up.

“You can tell when it’s a freshman out there,” Brehm said. “If I didn’t know she was a freshman I probably could have figured it out. Freshmen just have those little things that maybe they don’t realize every once in a while. They get worked out fast. She’ll learn real fast how the game works and what she needs to do to get ahead in the count, stuff like that.”

A lot of this is new to Maynard, stuff is coming at her fast, but she studies pitchers, especially a technician like Brehm.

She studied the pitches Brehm would throw ahead in the count and walked away armed with a little more knowledge. 

Part of the process for a kid who, according to her coach, gets it.

“That girl fought her tail end off,” Nichols said of Saturday’s game. “She’s a bulldog and she is going to give it her best every time. She is a student of the game. She is always looking at film, working on her craft. There are some days I have to tell her to take a day off, just because she is going the extra mile, trying to get everything she needs to do.”

Brehm too noticed how good she is already.

“I knew she was a good pitcher,” Brehm said. “We have the same pitching coach and I’ve seen her here and there. She has a lot of potential. A lot. I’m kind of excited to see what she is going to do with all that potential see where she’s going to go.”

That’s high praise from an all-state player who once walked onto the field as a freshman with an unlimited ceiling.

Being compared to one of the best in the state in Brehm just five starts into her first season, the sky is the limit.