Balschmiter's Repertoire Critical For UMass: Ace Uses Location, Movement To Set Up Her Velocity
May 19, 2007
AMHERST - A year ago, Brandice Balschmiter was still throwing mostly fastballs. Then just a freshman, Balschmiter's command of her other pitches was spotty.
Still just raring back and firing, Balschmiter helped pitch the University of Massachusetts softball team into the NCAA Super Regionals.
This year, Balschmiter's arsenal is better but so is the competition as Oklahoma (52-6), a perennial power and the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament, stands between UMass and another regional title.
UMass (37-12-1) opens NCAA play today against Long Island (33-20) at approximately 4:30 p.m. following Oklahoma's game against Colgate (25-22) which starts at 2 p.m. The double-elimination play continues Saturday and Sunday beginning at noon.
Another strong outing by their sophomore pitcher is critical For the Minutewomen to be successful in the NCAA Tournament. She's ready for it.
"I've been here before. I know what to expect. We're home again and we don't have to worry about traveling," Balschmiter said. "I'm not just throwing fastballs any more. I have more pitches and more pitch selection."
She relies on movement and location much more than just her considerable velocity, using more rise and drop balls.
UMass coach Elaine Sortino said her pitcher's development has allowed her to utilize more strategy.
"I think the things we talk about are different than what we could talk about a year ago. The management of her pitches, the way she sees things is so different than she did a year ago," said Sortino, who expects Balschmiter to raise her performance on the bigger stage.
"Brandice loves the big games ... and gets really up for them and hopefully she hits her stride and does things well," Sortino continued. "I think her ability to move the ball around is a lot better. I think she sees things in hitters that she couldn't see as a young player a year ago."
Balschmiter will take the circle with a 27-8 record, a 1.31 earned run average and 246 strikeouts. She and her teammates are looking at the regional as a chance to prove themselves nationally.
"This is a great challenge for us," Balschmiter said. "Just because we're in the Northeast, we're not one of those teams you can just brush by. We're going to be up for a fight."
While many media are already predicting a UMass-Oklahoma game in the winner's bracket Saturday, Sortino was careful not to overlook Long Island.
"We have to be on our game. They're a conference champion and a good team," she said.
The Blackbirds matched up against quite a few national level teams in the preseason hoping to get ready for this situation.
"We play a competitive schedule. Our kids are ready to play at that level," Long Island coach Roy Kortmann said.
THINKING BIG - Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who has led the Sooners to five Women's College World Series appearances and one national championship, said they are striving to add to those totals.
"I think with the tradition we have in our softball program, that's what we play for," Gasso said.
"If it's not what we're striving for, we're not who we say we are.
"That's what we do at the University of Oklahoma, we play for championships."
Gasso said she believes her team is ready to make run.
"I think we're playing our best softball right now. The way I saw our team playing in the Big 12 Tournament was championship softball," Gasso said. "I felt at that time they could beat any team in the country."
WEATHER WOES? - There is rain predicted in Amherst Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which could wreak havoc with the weekend game schedule.
Monday is an available date if the games aren't completed by Sunday. But a champion must be determined by Monday night.
INTERNET AUDIO/VIDEO - Live video of each game will be available through UMassathletics.com. Internet audio of the UMass games will also be available on the site.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.