Tamy Cerrato didn't grow up as a softball player.
When she started the sport her freshman year at Costa Mesa High, she said it was difficult.
"I didn't know anything about the sport," Cerrato said. "I was kind of lost. I grew up playing soccer and basketball, and this was totally different. It was out of my comfort zone."
She started playing at third base, one of several promising freshman for the Mustangs that freshman year of 2008. Now Cerrato and the other three varsity holdovers from that year – second baseman Sami Feinstein, shortstop Alex Krohnfeldt and outfielder Nikki Lether – are the senior leaders for the Mustangs.
Cerrato ended up picking up the sport just fine, which isn't surprising. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week doesn't mind facing challenges in her life.
Another challenge this year has been Cerrato's transformation into Costa Mesa's top starting pitcher. And that has been made even more remarkable because of yet another challenge, this one in her personal life.
She said last year near the start of the softball season she was physically assaulted at a park in Santa Ana.
"I was going to one of my aunt's houses," Cerrato said. "I don't really remember the park's name; it was just a stop. [The assault] was money-based. It wasn't sexual assault or anything like that."
Cerrato said to this day, she doesn't know who attacked her. But she had to go to court last spring to give testimony. Things piled up, and she didn't play softball her junior year.
"It was just kind of hard," Cerrato said. "I had to give up one, and obviously I'm not going to give up school. I had to go to court a lot, so I obviously couldn't say no to court either. I had to give up softball. It sucked, but I had to do it. I promised myself I would come back senior year and try to do my best. It was hard, but you've kind of gotta get back up."
The post player in basketball came into her senior softball year with just a bit of pitching experience. She dabbled in pitching at the end of her sophomore year and briefly took lessons, but she was clearly the Mustangs' No. 2 pitcher as the season began. Sophomore Nikki Delgado, now primarily the team's first baseman, handled most of the team's pitching duties early on while Cerrato was at first.
Cerrato said she loves pitching, but she didn't mind first base. However, Coach Nichole Maddox noticed something.
Cerrato is unflappable on the mound.
"We knew she had some pitching experience, but we weren't quite sure if she was going to be able to step up and do the job of being our No. 1," Maddox said. "She's proven herself. She has a completely sound mind on the mound. She has great composure, which I think helps her a lot. You can look at her face, and never a different facial expression at all. You can critique her and she just says, 'OK' and she moves on."
Cerrato modestly credits her teammates, like senior catcher Alosina Skipps.
"She's amazing," Cerrato said. "If I'm not doing my job, she's trying her hardest to make it look like a strike. I still have to learn a lot in pitching."
Most of the time Cerrato does the job for the Mustangs (6-17, 4-4 in league). They're in the midst of a CIF playoff race.
She led Mesa to a big win, 16-4, over cross-town rival Estancia on April 26. Cerrato (4-10) gave up three earned runs and proved her mettle, pitching out of bases-loaded jams in three different innings. At the plate she was one for three with a pair of sacrifice bunts.
"She's done well on offense as well," said Maddox, who usually bats Cerrato in the No. 5 or 6 spot. "Again, her composure allows for her to be just a great athlete. She's able to get the job done without having to be stressed out about it."
A win over Estancia was special, Cerrato said, because the Mustangs girls' basketball team lost to the Eagles both times in league this past winter. Another reason it was special was because it was a chance to beat Estancia assistant Marcus Franco, who was the Mesa softball head coach in 2008 and 2009.
Cerrato said she has a class near the classroom of Franco, who still teaches math at Costa Mesa. She said he was talking a bit of good-natured trash before the game.
"We came into that game like any regular game," Cerrato said. "For basketball, I think we kind of just came in a little nervous, but for softball we were all calm. We were all focused and mentally there.
"It was like, 'Hey Franco, we beat your team.' But at the same time, it's our rival. So we have that in the bag. Now Estancia can't say, 'Oh, our softball team beat your softball team.' No, it's the other way around. It was really cool to walk to my classes and have teachers telling us, 'Good job.' It was a really good experience."
Mesa plays a crucial game at Laguna Beach on Tuesday. Then there's the regular-season finale against Estancia on Thursday. This time, it's at the Mustangs' field.
It will be another challenge.
Cerrato will be ready.
Born: March 29, 1993
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Coach: Nichole Maddox
Favorite food: Fried catfish
Favorite movie: "Pearl Harbor"
Favorite athletic moment: Hitting an RBI single her sophomore year to help Costa Mesa beat Estancia, 2-1, and clinch a CIF playoff berth.
Week in review: Cerrato pitched a complete game as Costa Mesa beat rival Estancia, 16-4, in an Orange Coast League game April 26. She allowed three earned runs on 10 hits, striking out three. She was also one for three with two sacrifice bunts and a run scored.