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She Is a Quick Learner

Norco's Urincho had to learn how to pitch at age 7. Now she is one of the best in the Southland and has earned a college scholarship.

March 27, 2004|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

A timely flier and a little white lie a decade ago helped shape the Southland's softball landscape today.

When senior pitcher Daniela Urincho of Norco was 7 years old, she brought home a flier announcing sign-ups for a Rancho Cucamonga youth softball league.

"I just wanted to try it out," Urincho said. "I never played a sport. I was always active, and it was the first flier that came out. It could have been soccer. I guess it was meant to be."

Inexplicably, Urincho's mother, Irma, told the coach her daughter knew how to pitch.

"She made me a pitcher with a white lie," Urincho said.

"I had to learn really quick. My sister, Ali, started to teach me. She knew the mechanics of it."

On Friday, Urincho (pronounced ew-REEN-cho) led the top-ranked team in the Southland into the first of three Mountain View League games against second-ranked Corona Santiago, which prevailed, 1-0.

Rick Robinson, the fifth-year coach of Norco, said Urincho "doesn't come across as the superstar that's better than everybody else."

But most times, the Brigham Young-bound right-hander has been better than everybody else.

At Robinson's request, Urincho began throwing a dropping curveball instead of a flat one in the middle of last season.

Norco closed with nine consecutive victories to finish third in the league, then beat five consecutive league champions to win the Southern Section Division II title.

That run continued through the first seven games this season before running out Friday.

Urincho (7-1) gave up a leadoff double to opposing pitcher Taryne Mowatt, and after advancing on a disputed play at third base on a fielder's choice, Mowatt scored on Kelsey Bruder's single.

Urincho gave up five hits and struck out seven. She gave up only her second run of the season -- and first earned. Arizona-bound Mowatt (7-1) gave up three hits and struck out 10.

"We don't think Daniela has thrown a good game this year by her standards," Robinson said. "And Taryne is as good a hitter as there is."

Earlier this season, Urincho pitched a one-hitter against Santiago in the championship game of the Corona tournament, which Norco won, 1-0, in eight innings.

"She's great," Mowatt said of her rival.

"Great hitter, great fielder, great pitcher."

Norco won't fret over the loss. It has proved that third-place finishes in the league are easily forgotten with section championships.

Besides, today Norco begins the Santa Ana Foothill Roundtable Invitational, which has three defending section champions -- itself, Garden Grove Pacifica (Division III) and Sun Valley Village Christian (Division IV) -- and three finalists -- Foothill (Division I), Whittier California (Division II) and Carson (City Section) -- in its eight-team field. Norco plays Anaheim Esperanza at 11 a.m. and California at 3 p.m. The tournament concludes next Saturday with the last round of pool play and the trophy games.

But Urincho has experienced challenges.She paid little attention to her schoolwork and was academically ineligible to play softball as a freshman at Riverside Notre Dame.

"I wanted to have fun and wasn't thinking about the future, which was dumb of me because I had to pay for it by going to night school and summer school," Urincho said.

She transferred to Norco, but a lung infection kept her sidelined much of her sophomore season. Her junior year was much better, and culminated with a victory over California in which Urincho (21-6, 0.68 ERA) outpitched the much-heralded Jennifer Davis (26-7, 0.20), who is now at UC Santa Barbara.

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