While Alex Holmes has drawn the attention of opposing batters for the least few seasons, the future of the UC Davis pitching staff falls largely on the shoulders of sophomore Jessica Thweatt.
Though the Sacramento native played a minor role in last season’s Big West Conference Championship campaign, Thweatt has filled the position of No. 2 pitcher nicely this season. She has posted a record of 6-6 with a 3.33 ERA, 44 strikeouts and three complete games this season.
This week, Thweatt sat down with Aggie Sports Writer Trevor Cramer to talk about her role, last year’s success and the future of the UC Davis softball program.
You were part of a conference championship team as a freshman last year. What was it like to step into that success?
It was amazing to be a part of. I had no idea what to expect coming in. It was just great to experience that. I would always watch [the NCAA Regionals] on TV and I never expected to be a part of that, so it was really exciting.
After pitching just over five innings all last season, how were you able to transition into a much larger role this year?
It was really hard for me last year watching from the bench, because I really wanted to be a part of the team, but I accepted my role and over the summer I worked really hard. I pitched a lot and worked on my mechanics so that this year when I was given a bigger role, I would be prepared.
This team will return a lot of players next season. How does it help you to have so many teammates back in 2012?
I think it will really help us build good team chemistry. There will be five or six incoming freshmen, so having a strong group of returners will help them catch on.
One of the big losses in the offseason will be pitcher Alex Holmes. With her departure you will be expected to step into a bigger role. Is that something you embrace?
Hard work is going to be a big thing for me. I know I will need to work a lot this summer to get ready for the challenge. I need to get better at hitting my spots and minimizing walks. Hopefully I can step up and fill part of the hole that she’s leaving.
How is your pitching style different from Holmes’?
She definitely has a better rise-ball than I do, where I tend to keep the ball down more. She also gets batters to chase a lot. She sets up batters really well, and that’s something I need to work on.
Do you have a pitch that you know you can count on in a big situation?
Usually it’s my curve, but lately my drop has developed into that pitch lately but sometimes I throw that a little bit too low. I would say mostly my curve.
Who are the leaders on your team?
Definitely [Elizabeth Santana]. Coming in as a freshman she just stepped up and picked up a huge role. She didn’t have to be very vocal, but you could tell she was a leader by the way she carried herself and presented herself on the field. Also, Alex [Holmes] being the center of the team and Kylie [Fan] being very reliable off the field and vocal on it.
What is your relationship with your teammates like off the field?
I know its cliché, but we’re like a family. We love being around each other and we’re around each other all the time. It’s just a lot of fun, because we can goof off at times, but other times we can be serious if we need to be.
So there is constantly chatter coming from your dugout. Where do those chants come from?
Some of them are stolen from other teams, and others we come up with ourselves. A lot of the time it’s the same people leading them and then the rest of us chime in. I feel like it’s an important part of the game to give energy for the batters to build off of.
With the setup of La Rue Field, it’s difficult to see the field from the bullpen. Are you able to keep tabs on the action while you’re warming up?
No, it’s really hard. I always want to know what’s going on, so I’m constantly asking the catcher what’s going on, because they can see better, or I’m running to the fence to see what’s going on. It’s hard not being able to see the game.
Do you have any particular superstitions that you follow on game day?
No, I’m not really a superstitious person. My only thing is I don’t like to be rushed. If I’m rushed I feel like it’s not going to be good day.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.