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THE TIMES ORANGE COUNTY PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Darn Near Perfect

Softball: Pacifica's Amanda Freed pitched her team to the Southern Section Division III championship.

June 10, 1997|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GARDEN GROVE — She will be one of the most highly sought-after college recruits next season when she becomes a senior.

Amanda Freed's accomplishments in the present--and the past--make it easy to understand why.

She won 20 games without a loss this year, struck out 263 in 154 innings, pitched nine no-hitters and five perfect games. Not a bad junior season.

She pitches for Pacifica, the team that always seemed to find a way to lose once the playoffs arrived. As a freshman, her error cost the Mariners in the quarterfinals. Last year, it was someone else's. But Freed has been in the middle of some furious finishes this season that put Pacifica into the Southern Section Division III finals and made it a champion.

She pitched a perfect game in a first-round playoff victory over Valencia, and her bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh provided the only run.

She pitched a one-hitter in the second round against Laguna Hills.

She scored the tying run in the bottom of the seventh and had a hit-and-run single that kept the game-winning rally alive in the ninth in a 2-1 victory over Canyon in the quarterfinals. She pitched a two-hitter against the Comanches.

She pitched a perfect game and struck out 17 against Palm Desert in the semifinals.

And having reached the finals, she pitched a no-hitter to beat Glendora St. Lucy's.

Could there be any doubt Freed is the 1997 Times Orange County player of the year?

She was the county's most dominant pitcher. Though others may have had lower earned-run averages than Freed's 0.23, few coaches would be inclined to take someone else in an open draft.

Almost any superlative is an understatement. Watch her pitch a big game. Watch that first pitch, a fastball so terrifyingly crisp that it gives you that feeling.

That feeling of being overwhelmed.

She can throw six pitches--rise, curve, drop, change-up, screwball, knuckleball. Most batters hope for something offspeed. But that change-up was the pitch that killed St. Lucy's in the final.

Her five perfect games tie the Southern Section single-season record held by Lakewood St. Joseph's Lisa Fernandez, Cerritos Gahr's DeDe Weiman and Boron's Lindsay Dugan. Pretty heady company, but company Freed deserves to mingle with.

She is regarded in softball circles as one of the two best pitchers in the state--and the nation. She will have her choice of universities to attend. She will make some coach very happy, and some program very good.

While Toni Mascarenas just spent four years putting Pacifica on the softball map, Freed became the other half of the Mariners' 1-2 punch by establishing herself as the team's No. 1 pitcher.

"It was a relief when she came because I knew [teammates] didn't have to count on me all the time to be the pitcher that's going to win it," Mascarenas said before the season began. "Amanda is just as good as me or even better."

You might say she's a streak pitcher. Freed won her first 21 games on the varsity, lost two in a row and hasn't lost a non-playoff game since. Her three-year record is 47-3. By comparison, the senior with the most victories in the county, Canyon's Veronica Lopez, has gone 52-31.

Of course, Freed has had a good team behind her and good coaching along the way. And each successive coach pushed her further toward perfection.

"That's the key--constantly being pushed to get better and not staying at the same level, not letting others pass you up," Freed said 3 1/2 months ago.

And so it has been this season. She didn't let anyone else surpass her. She has been in big games so long, at such different levels--she pitched Gordon's Panthers club team to an Amateur Softball Assn., 18-and-under national championship as a 16-year-old, twirling a two-hitter in the title game. She might be beaten (rarely), but she won't choke because of pressure. Expectations of others? She is oblivious to it.

"It's not that I don't care what people think," Freed said. "I don't make [the way] people look at me a big part of my playing. I'm just doing what I can do."

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