BUCKLEY — Sam Mitchell has a scowl straight out of a Clint Eastwood movie. She throws girls to wrestling mats like they’re rag dolls and crushes softballs like they stole the chicken sandwich from her lunch.
On the softball field, the wrestling mat, even in the White River High School hallways, she can be intimidating. Her own family sometimes fears her glare.
Who cares if she stands only 5-foot-2? Mitchell’s grimace could ward off someone 7-foot-2.
“People say every day, ‘You’re so scary. Why are you so angry?’ ” Mitchell said. “I tell them, ‘I’m not! This is just my game face.’ I don’t even realize that I do it. Honestly, I’ve never been in a fight in my life.”
Mitchell — selected as The News Tribune’s 2012-13 female high school athlete of the year — has game to match her scowl.
She won the state 170-pound girls wrestling championship this year and earned Class 2A South Puget Sound League co-MVP honors for the fastpitch team as a home run-hitting terror. Mitchell batted over .500 with 16 home runs, 58 RBI and 16 stolen bases this season.
Two years ago, she led the Hornets to their first fastpitch state tournament appearance, after basically splitting her right forearm in half in the first five seconds of her first wrestling match that winter. She played that spring despite doctors inserting two 8-inch plates and 14 screws into her arm.
Mitchell then helped White River win its first game at this
year’s state fastpitch tournament. The Hornets finished 2-2 in Selah.
Her wrestling title — she defeated Brewster’s Janet Carrillo in the final — was the first for a girl at White River.
“She has definitely left her mark on this school,” athletic director Chris Gibson said. “And we couldn’t ask for anyone better to do so.”
Even if she could swat your textbooks to the floor or shove you into a locker at any moment?
“I think she’s a teddy bear,” he said.
Mitchell says her expression comes from her intense focus. Not even launching a ball to the moon could rid her of it.
One of her few mistakes came against Franklin Pierce. She was catching, and a ball got past her. She couldn’t get it off her mind.
Later, with the bases loaded, the right-handed Mitchell hammered a pitch to the opposite field for a grand slam.
“She is circling the bases, and she has still got this scowl on her face as she is rounding third and giving me a high-five,” fastpitch coach Brandon Walker said. “I’m like, ‘What’s the deal?’ and she says, ‘Nothing! I’m fine!’ We were winning the game by eight at this point.
“She is just the type of person who knows there’s always something she can work on. It bothers me sometimes. I tend to think there is more wrong than there really is. But it’s never been a problem. Just a look.”
Mitchell said parents have approached her after games to ask why she looks so angry on the field. She has been known for frightening stare-downs with opposing wrestlers before matches, as well.
She has become so intimidating, she says even some of the guys at White River are scared of her.
“We have the same problem with her,” said Sam Mitchell’s mom, Shelly Mitchell. “I’ll say, ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Nothing! It’s my game face!’
“But she would never hurt anybody. She had problems throwing her helmet in the dugout after she struck out when she was younger, but that was like the fifth grade.”
Mitchell doesn’t mind that people find her intimidating. She actually kind of likes it.
“Honestly, I think it’s funny,” said Mitchell, who will play shortstop and third base at Dakota State University, an NAIA school in Madison, S.D. “All these girls, even some of the guys, are scared (of) at me at school. I just say, ‘Why, why?’ ‘Well, you are the state champion.’
“I’m just like, ‘Let’s be real here, you know there’s a difference between wrestling and UFC, right?’ It’s just funny to me.”
With the record marks she is leaving after four years at White River, it’s the scowl that will be almost as legendary as her performances.
THE SAM MITCHELL FILE
Cumulative GPA: 3.2
Career varsity letters: 8 (4 fastpitch, 4 girls wrestling)
Future college: Dakota State University
Best memory: “I teched the girl by 15 points (in the 2013 state 170-pound girls wrestling championship), but I didn’t know I had won. I wanted to pin her, but the ref blew his whistle. I turned around and said, ‘Ref, what did I do wrong?’ I was thinking I had done something illegal. He said, ‘Nothing, you won.’ And I just jumped up, pointed to my parents and screamed, ‘Yeeeaaahhh!’ ”TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 email@example.com @Cotterill44