Dora Flores wondered if her daughter, Ruby, then 6, would give up softball as she did swimming, tap dancing and baton twirling lessons. Unlike the other activities, softball didn't bore Ruby, it frightened her.
"I never thought Ruby would be a player," Dora said. "She was so scared of the ball that, to hit, she'd stand about two feet away from the plate. I told my husband, Jesse, she's not going to be a player, she'll be embarrassing. But he kept saying she could be a pitcher. I said, 'My God, forget it.' "
But father knew best about Ruby, now a junior pitcher and first baseman at Sunny Hills High School.
Flores, The Times' Player of the Week, threw a no-hitter Friday, striking out 16 in a 4-0 victory over Villa Park in a Southern Section first-round playoff game. A walk in the first inning and a hit batter in the seventh kept her from a perfect game.
This season, she has pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game against Ocean View. Flores, who has allowed four runs--only one of them earned--is 14-2 with a 0.06 earned-run average.
She has allowed 24 hits and 6 walks and struck out 181 for the Lancers (23-5). She is also batting .289 with two doubles and three RBIs.
"A lot of publicity goes to the pitchers who throw the hardest or have the most strikeouts," said Larry Mays, coach of the Panthers, a Cypress-based club team. "But Ruby is extremely accurate--more than anyone in her class. If she throws the ball two inches outside, that's because that's exactly where she wanted it to go."
Of course, it wasn't always this way. Like most pitchers in Little Miss (ages 6-8) leagues, Flores, 7, used a slingshot delivery at first.
Then, after her parents enrolled her in Ron LeFebvre's School of Baseball and Softball in Orange, Flores learned the windmill windup and then the rise pitch.
"I remember the first day we went to pitching school," said Nora Flores, Ruby's older sister, a senior pitcher and first baseman for the Lancers. "She got the hang of it (the windmill) so fast, I just sat there watching her, amazed. Here I was, the older one, not getting it at all, and Ruby's just whipping it in there like a pro."
With help from LeFebvre and her father, Flores' fear had been calmed by a quiet confidence, then replaced by an aggressive pitching demeanor.
"We were always afraid of Ruby," said Mays, whose Panthers faced Flores until she joined the team in 1982, the year she led them to the first of three Amateur Softball Assn. national championships.
"She looked about 12 inches taller than everybody and could throw the ball harder than anyone."
Mays recalled one game when she threw so hard her hand was being torn by the seams of the ball.
"Ruby pitched a ball that was more red with blood than white. But she never complained about it," he said.
Sunny Hills High School
Position: Pitcher / First Base.
Height, Class: 5-8, Jr.
Last Week: Flores threw a no-hitter and struck out 16 in a 4-0 victory over Villa Park in a Southern Section first- round playoff game Friday.
Season: Flores (14-2) has pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game over Ocean View in the Canyon tournament. She has given up four runs--only one of them earned--for a 0.06 earned-run average and has allowed 24 hits and 6 walks and struck out 181 batters for Sunny Hills (23-5). Flores is also batting .289 with two doubles and three RBIs this season.