What is it like to be a rookie on the U.S. national softball team? For Caitlin Lowe, it meant having a bucket of balls hand-cuffed to her arm so she had to carry it around all day. For Jessica Mendoza, it meant finding her jersey in the toilet with a Baby Ruth bar and pineapple juice. For national team newcomer Jennie Ritter, it means something a little more practicalgetting in tune with two new catchers in three short weeks.
We have such a short time to get to know each other but theyve been both my roommates the past two weeks. Weve had a chance to sit and talk and I really like them, they know what theyre doing; they are really smart.
The last time Ritter stepped on the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium she led Michigan to the Womens College World Series title in 2005. I drove in and it brought back a lot of memories. I started thinking about the team and how great it was. Im hoping to continue the success.
One reason for her collegiate success was how closely she worked with her battery-mate, Becky Marx. I think with catchers, you have a serious relationship, explains Ritter. To be on the same wave length and understand each other--beyond just pitches--its kind of a big thing.
Most pitchers have a more of a struggle getting into a rhythm with catchers, but this was not the case for Ritter. Ritter and Marx had a head-start on their relationship having played together prior to college. It was cool catching for her because we would go an entire game and she would never shake off a pitch because she agreed with all of them, Marx shared. She wasnt a pitcher and I was the catcher--we had a good partnership and worked as a unit.
Now Ritter turns her attention to the World Cup of Softball where she is part of the most dominating pitching staff in international softball. When asked if she felt pressure as part of such a competitive rotation she replied, My thing right now is to control what I can control. Not be so worried what the team thinks or what the coaches think or what all the fans are hoping. My goal is to shut them down.
Ritter hasnt avoided the rookie pranks entirely. Laura Berg, the team prankster, slapped her on the shoulder and asked how her workout went. Thinking Berg was genuinely interested in how she was doing, Ritter later found out that Berg was more interested in putting a luggage tag on her back.
In the end, Ritter is here to get her job done and is happy and honored to be doing it. One of the great things about this team is that while there are rookies and veterans, theres not necessarily a big difference between them. Everyone on this team deserves to be here.
Crystl Bustos hit the ball so well, its almost as if she knew what pitch was coming. It turns out, that was exactly the case in a 9-1 United States victory over Venezuela.
It actually didnt get very high. It was a little bit flat. But it always helps knowing whats coming, joked Bustos. They dont think I understand Spanish but I understood what pitch was coming because the coach yelled it to the pitcher. If you watch in the camera my feet set up a certain way to help bring a pitch that I want, then I switch my feet before the pitcher throws the pitch.
In the beginning, it didnt look good for the U.S. Jennie Ritter promptly gave up her first earned run in international play with a lead-off solo homerun to Maria Soto to start the game. I think it was just jitters, Ritter explained, I missed on a curveball. I think I was just trying to be perfect.
Ritter settled down, striking out seven in three scoreless innings and was eager to keep pitching. I felt good from the second inning on. It just took a while to get the rhythm going. After that I felt real comfortable and ready to throw some more.
Bustos wasnt the only U.S. offensive threat. Natasha Watley went two for three hitting a triple in both the second and forth innings. Kelly Kretschman also hammered a homerun to the opposite field.
Venezuela did not threaten after the lead-off homerun--managing to earn one run on four hits. With a commanding lead, Alicia Hollowell took over the mound in the fifth inning to solidify the win. She closed the game quickly by striking out two of the three batters she faced.
United States will take on China, ranked fourth in the world, tomorrow at 7:00pm.
Side note: After the game, I found myself in line for the bathroom behind Kelly Kretschman and Laura Berg. Kretschman mentioned she received fifteen text messages during the game, most congratulating her on her homerun. They also pointed out a picture hanging on the wall near by of the 1996 national team, more specifically, how awesome Bergs long bangs looked in it. It was cool to see the players behind the scenes and share a laugh with them.