By Alex Rivera-Ortiz / Staff Writer
By Alex Rivera-Ortiz / Staff Writer
The key to any successful baseball or fastpitch softball team is a solid pitching rotation. The pitcher is the first and last line of defense upon which the team relies on at all times.
Most teams in Major League Baseball have at least one ace on their staff. Someone the manager can turn to and know exactly what he’s going to get, dominance. Other teams are lucky enough to have two aces, a sure sign of a good pitching staff.
There is however that rare instance when a team catches lightning in a bottle and has three pitchers that its coach can turn to and just know that they’ve got a shot to win the game.
The Dodgers in the ‘60s would look to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton.
For the early to mid-’90s era Braves it was the triumvirate of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
And just this off-season the baseball world was sent into tizzy when Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies teaming with Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay.
Far removed from the glitz and glamour of professional baseball there are three pitchers that are showing that they too are a three headed monster of pitching superiority that is ready to take their place in that ratified air.
Chelsea Ponce, Nichole Zink, and Tracy Hampton are the Tigers’ triple threat.
The three aces are even tough competitors when they come to practice to face their teammates on the mound.
“Honestly I could say these are the three best pitchers I have ever faced,” said Tiger’s infielder Coreen Lopez.
RCC’s three pitchers are dominating the Orange Empire Conference.
Ponce has a record of 12-0. She is averaging six strikeouts a game and has pitched nearly 80 innings in 14 games.
Zink has a record of 10-4. She is averaging 10 strikeouts a game and has pitched over 100 innings in 16 games.
Unlike the others, Hampton was ineligible at the beginning of the season therefore she has a record of 1-0. She has yet to show her dominance this season, but a year ago Hampton handled the entire season by herself finishing the season with a 20-5 record and took the team to playoffs.
The three of them are different but the same in their own way.
Ponce and Hampton are drop ball pitchers, which means the opposing batters will most likely groundout to the Tigers’ infielders and the opposing batters will have a harder time making plays off them.
Zink is a different kind of pitcher. The key to all of her strikeouts is her rise in the ball. With her key pitch being effective most of the time, she also takes more chances at getting burned with more home runs by opposing batters than the other two pitchers.
The three of them rely on the support each of them gives to one another. The three aces said they are each other’s biggest fans.
While an other teams competition between pitchers is common, in this team there is only unity. Each one tries 100 percent to finish the game by themselves without bringing the other two into the game.
The three each have a different way to approach every batter but at the end of the day they still want the same outcome, to not let the opposing team get the best out of them.
Together they have a combined team fielding percentage of .971, 578 put outs, 184 assists and only 23 errors.
Coach Michelle Daddona has high praise for three ace pitchers.
“We wouldn’t be here without any of them. We are a team because of our pitching staff; it’s not just one, it’s a goal as a group,” she said.
The pitching staff has given the RCC Tigers a 12-2 conference record, a 24-4 overall record and a first place seed in the conference.
RCC leads the state defending champions, Cypress College by a half game with 10 games left in the season.
Zink, Ponce and Hampton said they are still very strong, positive and ready for what is to come in the month ahead as they finish off the season and prepare for the postseason where they hope to win a state title.