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Raising her game
Sarah Ray has a curveball. And a screwball. And a change-up. And an offspeed pitch. And a fastball.
It's quite an arsenal for a high school pitcher - enough to win the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club 2010 All-Region Softball Player of the Year - but still lacking for a college pitcher.
"I need to develop one more pitch. I need a drop ball soon. It's getting better, I just need to improve it," said Ray, who wrapped up her senior year in the circle for Cibola going 17-4 with a 1.53 ERA. She'll pitch for Phoenix College in the fall.
Five pitches worked plenty well in high school, as she also won the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club 2009 player of the year award last year. She was also the girls basketball player of the year this winter.
But moving to the next level on the diamond, Ray said she needs to not only work on the dropper, but add some speed as well.
She got a taste of the next level in the postseason, facing a Glendale-Deer Valley team in a 5A-II elimination bracket quarterfinals that had two NCAA Division-I signees. She intentionally walked Lauren Haeger - who signed with the University of Florida - all three times in a 6-1 loss. After getting Northwestern signee Jenny Taylor to pop up in the first, she homered in the next inning, then drew an intentional walk her next time up.
The lesson on facing that caliber of talent?
"Don't give really good batters any good pitches," Ray said. "That's about it."
Cibola coach Shelly Baumann said it was a good learning experience for Ray and taught her how to be more careful with her pitches.
"The ball needs to move," Baumann said. "The ball needs to jump. The ball needs to have tons of spin on it. You have to hit your spots."
Baumann said those two are above the normal level she'll see pitching for the Bears, but that's not to say she won't occasionally see a hitter with incredible power.
"Maybe not that good of caliber, but there are going to be some kids like that," Baumann said. "You're going to have some diamonds in the rough at that level."
The Raiders went 2-2 in the postseason last year, but won one fewer game this season. After a 12-0 romp through the Gila Valley region and a 17-0 mark in AIA power point games, Cibola lost its opener to Avondale-La Joya.
"I'm glad we did good in the region, but I would have liked to have gone further in state," Ray said. "We still had a good year."
Baumann said next year that the team will miss the edge Ray brings to the rubber.
"Sarah Ray was a critical part of our success," Baumann said. "For all three years she started for us, when she's on the mound - like I've been saying again and again - we have a chance to win. That kind of sums it up there."