UCLA All-American softball pitchers Tracy Compton and Debbie Doom will be back in school next fall.
Unfortunately for Coach Sharron Backus, her star pitchers for the last four years are no longer eligible to play for the Bruins, who just won their second consecutive NCAA championship and third in four years.
Compton and Doom, the heart of Backus' teams during most of that period, will be completing work on their degrees, a task they were unable to finish because of the demands of a long softball schedule. But both have completed their four years of athletic eligibility.
A mathematics major, Compton, who finished the season with a 20-4 record and an earned-run average of 0.08, wants to become a certified public accountant. Doom, who was 20-5 with a 0.27 ERA, wants to teach the handicapped.
Both are expected to continue their amateur pitching careers in the American Softball Assn. this summer. But Backus also expects that they will be hanging around the UCLA softball field next season to lend continuity to the Bruin program, giving tips to the newcomers who will be taking over for the peerless pair.
The newcomers--three are certain to be on next year's team and they may be joined by a fourth--were among the best high school pitchers in the country. But going from the best in high school to the best in college is a long jump, one that wasn't made overnight even by Compton and Doom.
One indication of the pair's importance this year is that one or the other was on the mound in all but one game for the Bruins, who finished with a 41-9 record. The other game was a victory pitched by Tricia Mang, who was the power hitting star of last year's NCAA championships and who was expected to pitch more this year.
Mang would been an important pitching and hitting holdover next year, but the sophomore contracted what Backus said was "some kind of blood disease" this year, dropped out of UCLA at the end of March and may not return next year.
Hot Pitching Prospects
So the new pitchers, though all are hot prospects, will be coming in cold to college softball.
One is Monica Messmer, a transfer from the University of Utah who was a redshirt freshman at UCLA this season and starred earlier at South Hills High in West Covina. Two others are Samantha Ford of Hart High School in Newhall and Michelle Phillips of Norco High School near Riverside.
Backus said she also plans to talk to Lisa Bautista, the record-setting Banning High School senior pitcher, about coming to UCLA. In the City playoff quarterfinals last week, Bautista tied her own national record by throwing her seventh consecutive no-hit game, a feat she had achieved earlier in the season. As of last week, Bautista had 17 no-hitters this season.
Messmer, Ford and Phillips have been All-CIF selections, and the names of Messmer and Ford are written large in the CIF record book through the 1984 season.
Messmer Biggest Winner
Messmer was first in career victories with 71 and Ford was fourth with 63. Ford was third in consecutive wins with 26 and Messmer was fifth with 23.
In shutouts, Ford topped the career list with 45 and Messmer was fourth with 34; Ford was second with 18 for a season and Messmer was second in consecutive shutouts with 16.
Messmer had the most career no-hitters, 21, and Ford was third with 16. Messmer was second with 10 no-hitters for a season, and Ford was next with nine. Messmer also had five straight no-hitters to wind up first in that CIF category.
In earned-run average for a season, Messmer is tied with four others who had ERAs of 0.00. Compton, who played at Righetti High in Santa Maria, is one of the four; she did it twice, in 1980 and '81, and is in the top 10 of the CIF in several other categories. (Doom, another record-setting high school pitcher, prepped in Tempe, Ariz.)
Ford Whiffed 1,014
In career strikeouts, Ford finished last year with 1,014 to lead that category when she still had another year to go at Hart High, and Messmer was second with 873. Ford whiffed 373 batters in 1982 for second place, behind Newbury Park High's Sandy Ortgies, who had 427 in 1983.
Ford is second on the list for strikeouts in a seven-inning game with 20, and she did that six times. Messmer once struck out 12 straight batters, which puts her in second place in that category.
A lot of records, and there should be more. Ford recently completed her senior season at Hart and, though she missed a good part of the season with what was diagnosed as recurring tendinitis in her wrist.
Coach Backus said Ford's strong right arm is "probably around 90%" of what it was and that she is an intense competitor who "will do whatever is necessary to be a winner."
When Ford came down with arm trouble this season, Backus was quoted as saying, "A lot of kids would have quit . . . but Sam is not like that. She just doesn't let things like that get in her way.
"What separates her from the majority of high school pitchers is her intensity and the competitiveness within. Sam plain just does not like to lose, so when her pitches are off or her style is not working, she'll find some other way to beat you. That's unique."
In 1983, Ford showed the nation how competitive she is on the last day of the American Softball Assn.'s annual tournament. On that day she won five consecutive games to give her team, the San Fernando Valley Shilos, a national championship.
Backus said that Ford, Messmer, Phillips and Bautista are all "highly talented players" but are "all untested. They haven't proven themselves (at the college level), so we'll have to wait and see."
She was asked if she thought UCLA would be a contender for the national title next year, and Backus changed her tune a little: "Yeah, I do. It's not like they (Ford and the other pitchers) are coming in cold. They're all very good, and Sam was the most highly recruited pitcher in the country."
Backus will lose three starters to graduation: Jennifer Simm at third base, shortstop Leslie Rover and left fielder Stacy Winsberg. But she expects the return of seven regulars: center fielder Mary Ricks, catchers Janet Pinneau and Shauna Wattenberg, Gina Holmstrom at first base, utility player Chris Olivie, Lisa Hankerd at second base and outfielder Debbie Ruelas.
Newcomers will include shortstop Sandra Alredge, the nation's junior college player of the year at Santa Ana College; utility player Monica Turvil of St. Paul High in Santa Fe Springs, outfielder Stephanie Miller from Bakersfield High, power-hitting infielder-catcher Janice Parks from Lakewood's Mayfair High, Granada Hills High infielder-outfielder Karen Walker, Kathy Lorenz, who played first base for Garden Grove High, and outfielder Cheryl Ziegler from California High in Whittier.
Backus likes the look of this squad. Each year, she said, the players "seem younger, quicker, stronger--and better."