Coming off her latest string of five straight no-hitters, Banning High's Lisa Bautista has reached the point where softball opponents award each other prizes for hitting even a foul ball and are nearly ecstatic when they can bunt a fair ball or loft a lazy fly.
Thanks to Bautista's dominance and a solid team behind her, Banning--which opened City playoffs against Taft on Wednesday--is seeded second in the City and is hoping to collide with top-seed El Camino Real in the finals.
Bautista ended the regular season with 15 no-hitters, including streaks of seven and five, and has college scholarship offers from Florida State and Arizona. Her no-hit log includes a perfect game. In fact, it's just about been a perfect season, but Bautista has learned a little bit about life's disappointments along the way.
A year ago, Bautista and Banning were beaten in the second playoff game--by El Camino Real. The defense was porous and Bautista felt she had to keep batters from touching the ball. "She put too much pressure on herself," said Coach Carol Cox. "Last year she felt she had to do it all. We had some problems. (Now) we're starting to play real good defense. I'm happy with the way we're playing. We've finally got that unity back. I'm sure it's why Lisa is comfortable out there."
It's Called Teamwork
Indeed, Bautista said her teammates take as much pride in the no-hitters as she. Last week against Gardena, three straight batters tried to bunt and third baseman Tina Magana made fine plays on the three to keep the no-hitter intact.
"If somebody gets a hit or scores an unearned run, the team doesn't like it," Bautista said. "The defense has helped me a lot in the no-hitters."
The 18-3 Pilots--two of the losses were 1-0--got off so well that Bautista, whose heart was set on playing for UCLA, began sending letters and schedules to Westwood. The interest was never reciprocated and Bautista, who has been accepted there academically but cannot afford to go as a walk-on, probably will attend Arizona, which has offered a full ride for three years and a partial scholarship her freshman year. She said she'll decide soon.
(UCLA is in Omaha for the NCAA tournament and team officials could not be reached for comment.)
Looks Are Deceiving
If UCLA's lack of interest is perplexing, it may be that Bautista doesn't look like a power pitcher. The slender 5-foot-5 senior weighs barely 100 pounds, and with a cap shading her large, dark eyes she almost looks vulnerable on the mound.
Bautista said she has "seven or eight" pitches, including several curves and a devastating riser that is often up around the eyes by the time batters swing at it. She has added a change-up that makes her hard pitches look even more explosive.
"Everything's been working," Bautista said. "I'll probably have to mix up my pitches more against the tougher schools like Kennedy and El Camino."
Cox has made lineup changes that have solidified the defense, moving catcher Tish Madrigal to the outfield, shifting sure-handed Susan Miller from first base to behind the plate (she caught as a junior) and installing left-handed sophomore Lorraine Minez at shortstop. Minez and Magana give the Pilots a strong left side.
Perfection Breeds Boredom
Still, with Bautista pitching the fielders sometimes have little more to do than lend encouragement. Bautista often strikes out two-thirds of the 21 outs in a seven-inning game.
"It's mostly a pitcher's game," Cox said after a recent contest. "If you don't have a pitcher, it's not much of a game. The biggest thing we have to do is stay on our toes. It gets boring out there (for fielders), I'm sure. My biggest job is to keep everybody in the game."
Bautista's father started her pitching as a child. She now takes professional coaching from Chuck Cheek in Fountain Valley and throws to her father nearly every day. Bautista said there is no strain on her arm and that her power comes from the speed of her windup and the push of her legs at the end.
Bautista would like a medical career--"I think I'd like to go into sports medicine; I might change my mind but it will be something medical"--and she can get an early start by doing surgery on opponents in the playoffs.
Bautista said she likes the Pilots' chances for a City title: "If we hit and keep the the defense, we should be able to get to the finals. I think we have a good chance."