Oct. 3, 2008
Saturday: Lobos vs. Eastern NM (DH), Lobo Field, noon
Up next: : Lobos at Arizona Fall Classic, Tucson, Oct 11-12
By Richard Stevens
You couldn't help but wonder if Lobo senior Analise Rubalcava would remember where the pitching plate was this past Saturday when she was called to the circle for the University of New Mexico softball team.
Would she throw the ball to the catcher or zoom it down to first like she has been doing for three years as a Lobo third baseman? Would she windmill the ball or throw overhand at the batter?
Of course, we joke, but it had been about eight years since Rubalcava went into a season being called a pitcher.
"I wasn't nervous at all. I was just pretty excited," said Rubalcava. "I told my defense to be ready for some ground balls. I basically just tried to keep the ball around the plate and torque (spin) it as much as possible and not try to overpower anyone or over think. I had a good day. Pretty much all my low pitchers were working. I had a lot of fun."
The 5-foot-3 senior's primary position at UNM for the past three seasons had been at third and she might be returned to that spot again in the spring. But maybe not if she keeps throwing shutouts like the 8-0 gem she tossed at West Texas AM last Saturday.
And Rubalcava's past suggests that maybe the Lobos should keep this dynamo on the rubber. As a member of the Arizona Hot Shots, Rubalcava was in the circle when the Hot Shots won a 10-and-under national championship. The girl obviously remembers some of her old stuff from the circle.
"I was extremely impressed with the confidence she showed out there," said Lobos coach Ty Singleton. "She did a great job out there for us."
Rubalcava was called to the circle for UNM's eight-game fall season because the Lobos lost senior Kelly Ninemire to graduation and three freshmen pitchers, who came to UNM for the 2007-08 season are no longer with the team: Kyla Nelson, Madelyn Machac and Krystal Gutierrez.
Singleton is hoping to bring in a couple of junior college pitchers for the spring season, but until then is looking to the arms of Rubalcava, Tiana George and Kerry Hodgins. Rubalcava might be the best of the three as far as movement and location. UNM also has freshman hurler Danielle Castro, who is fighting some leg soreness this fall.
"I started pitching when I was about seven," said Rubalcava. "It was definitely my first passion in softball."
Rubalcava said knee surgery took her off the rubber and turned her into an infielder. "It became hard to push off. It hurt," she said. "And I was young and really didn't want to go through all that pain."
Rubalcava became a fall pitcher for the Lobos when the UNM coaches asked their players if any of them had any previous experience pitching. The former national champion raised her hand.
"I had been throwing to some of the girls in drills, some windmill stuff for bunting drills, things like that," said Rubalcava. "You know, things you don't want to use a real pitcher for. So I knew I could still windmill it, toss it in there. And I'm a senior and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help our team win. I was thinking about what was good for the team."
It's not like Rubalcava walked out to the circle this past Saturday with no preparation. She has been working for about two months with UNM pitching coach, Tom Royder, and with UNM's starting catcher, Aaron Brandow, a Sandia High graduate.
"I've had a lot of good help," said Rubalcava. "In club ball, I just threw a high fast ball and a low fast ball and a change-up. I didn't have much depth. Just threw it really hard. I'm trying to throw a little bit of everything now because I definitely don't have a dominating pitch. I try to move it around the plate and just throw whatever seems to working on that day."
If the Lobos lure in some JC arms, Rubalcava probably will move back to third. But maybe not. Maybe not if she keeps hitting spots and keeps getting batter out. And she kind of likes it in the circle.
"I've been working hard the last two months, so I was ready and excited to get out there," she said. "I also was confident because I have been throwing to our hitters and I know that not too many teams have the hitters that we do. I'm not really feeling any pressure. It's more like excitement.
"But if the coaches bring in someone else to pitch, I'll do whatever is best for the team. Whatever the coaches want. Whatever happens in the future is beyond my control. I'll keep pitching and keep working at it until they tell me to go somewhere else. If we find a pitcher who throws 65 (mph) with velocity and great movement, then that's who I want in the circle. For now, I'm just excited to be out there and I'm having a whole lot of fun."
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner