YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Veterans and Rookies

Softball: The pitching combination of Bollinger and Young have an impressive history and make Mater Dei a serious playoff threat.


Tia Bollinger sat on the bench last week at practice and admitted that Mater Dei softball doesn't have the swagger it used to. Six freshmen replaced six seniors this season, and they haven't quite figured out how to project the Monarch attitude.

"You have to come out with a little cockiness, but not a lot, so teams know you're ready to play," Bollinger said. "There's a fine line between cockiness and confidence, and you have to walk on it."

If her teammates haven't figured it out, Bollinger and Marissa Young have.

Bollinger and Young, Mater Dei's pitchers, make the Monarchs a favorite to win the Southern Section Division I title whether they are seeded or not. And they aren't this year.

Laguna Hills Coach Cary Crouch says no team in the state has two better pitchers. He calls Young and Bollinger the best in the county.

"It's nice [as a coach] to sit back and not score runs for seven innings and know you'll still be playing, because those kids are going to shut you down," Crouch said. "There's nobody better than them."

And yet, there's no rivalry or jealousy between Young, a senior who will pitch the section championship if the Monarchs get that far, and Bollinger, a junior who pushed herself to excellence in an effort to keep up with Young.

Their talent and leadership have made it easy for Mater Dei, the defending section champion. The Monarchs got a new coach this season, Ed Ulloa, but the same old result. They are 23-4 and won the South Coast League title with a 9-1 record. Their only loss? In the seventh inning of a scoreless game against Dana Hills, Young surrendered back-to-back triples and a single. Mater Dei left seven runners on base, three on third.

Scoring, not pitching, has been the Achilles' heel for the Monarchs. Then again, the Monarchs don't need to score a lot. One is almost always enough.

Young gave up five runs (four earned) this season in 91 2/3 innings. She has 180 strikeouts.

Bollinger gave up five runs (four earned) in 94 innings. She has 141 strikeouts.

"I don't think either one of us can say, 'I'm much better than her,' " Bollinger said of comparisons. "We're both great pitchers and we respect each other, and whoever's out there, we're going to do well with them."

Young, who has signed with Michigan, was The Times Orange County player of the year as a freshman (18-1, 0.06), splitting time with senior Brooke Hofstetter. With 216 strikeouts in 126 2/3 innings, there's no telling what kind of numbers Young might have had if she had been the Monarchs' only pitcher. In midseason, Doug Myers, then the Monarchs' coach, called Young "the future of this program."

"After my freshman year, I had so much success, I thought things can only get better," Young said. "Big disappointment."

Young never reached her expectations. A pinched nerve in her neck caused shooting pain in her arm during her sophomore season, but she tried to pitch through it.

"Big mistake," Young said. "It only set me back further. Through my junior year, I was still dealing with it. If I had taken time off [as a sophomore] and got it corrected, I probably would have been back in a few weeks."

Her record at Mater Dei is 53-8. She has given up 20 runs, 10 earned.

"I feel like I'm always trying to get back there," Young said of her pre-injury form. "My expectations are greater than my accomplishments. The tough part is hearing from everyone else, always being compared to my freshman year.

"I'm not even compared to other people, but compared to myself."

Bollinger played in Young's shadow in the Santa Ana Little Miss--both would have gone to Santa Ana Valley had they not attended Mater Dei--and in travel ball leagues, but found the spotlight while Young trudged through her injury.

Bollinger went 16-3 as a freshman with a county-best 0.06 ERA, and has continued to stand out. Her career record is 45-6 She has allowed 18 runs, nine earned.

"Before I got the job," said Ulloa, who won two section titles at Upland, "all I knew was what I read in the newspapers--they were good pitchers, Marissa was player of the year as a freshman and got injured, and Tia pitched the championship game [last year]. I had never seen them pitch.

"They're better than advertised."


Tough Tandem

Here's a look at the pitching statistics of Mater Dei's Marissa Young and Tia Bollinger in their high school careers.

Marissa Young


Year G IP H BB K R ER W-L ERA 1996 22 126 2/3 34 15 216* 6 1 18-1 0.06* 1997 18 74 1/3 21 16 121 6 4 10-3 0.38 1998 15 99 26 22 144 3 1 13-2 0.07* 1999 14 91 2/3 22 14 180 5 4 11-2 0.31


Tia Bollinger


Year G IP H BB K R ER W-L ERA 1997 25 115 2/3 35 15 152 6 1 16-3 0.06* 1998 18 122 34 7 136 7 4 17-1 0.23 1999 13 94 1/3 34 6 141 5 4 12-2 0.30


* Led county.

Los Angeles Times Articles