Thorson coming to town with Cal

  • Charlie Laughtland<br>Enterprise writer
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:43am

Kristina Thorson used to be able to get away with hanging an occasional pitch out over the plate. She could always make it up with the next one.

But those days are over for the Shorecrest High School graduate, who returns home this weekend for UC Berkeley’s two-game softball series against the Huskies.

Pitching for the defending College World Series champion California Golden Bears in the nation’s elite fastpitch conference, Thorson has found that next ones don’t often exist.

“Everything’s more mental now,” Thorson said. “In high school, you can afford to miss a pitch. Now, I can’t throw over the middle. Every pitch means so much more. You have to have every pitch hit the right spot and every pitch has to move.”

In the first inning of her second Pac-10 start against then top-ranked UCLA, Thorson didn’t quite locate a pitch where she intended. The batter teed off for a deep, solo shot over the right field fence that would still be airborne if it weren’t for a tiny snag.

“It got stuck up in a tree,” Thorson said. “I’ve never seen a ball hit that far in my life.”

But that’s the trade-off that comes with Thorson’s throwing style. She has allowed a team-high nine home runs, and for the most part, it’s her trademark riseball that gets tagged.

“The rise is a pitch that goes out a lot,” she said.

Cal’s coaches have worked with Thorson on adding some new pitches and improving her off-speed stuff.

“I knew I needed a drop and changeup,” Thorson said. “I’m having issues with my drop right now, but it’s getting better.”

Thorson’s numbers reflect her progress. She has compiled an 11-5 record with a 1.16 ERA and is second on the team behind sophomore Kelly Anderson in most categories, including wins, appearances (24), starts (14), complete games (nine), innings (108.1), and strikeouts (118).

Opponents are hitting just .179 against Thorson and the former Washington State Gatorade Player of the Year has already beaten some premier programs.

Last month, Thorson dealt the Huskies their first shutout of the year to open the Pac-10 season, fanning five and yielding three hits and five walks in a 2-0 win.

“That was so big,” Thorson said. “I was really gunning for that one.”

Thorson comes into the Washington series off one of her best outings of the year — a four-hit, seven-strikeout, no-walk shutout of No. 15 Stanford last weekend.

The Bears started the season ranked third in the nation and are currently 10th in the latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll. Three Pac-10 teams own the top three spots — Arizona, UCLA and Washington — and three more are ranked in the top 15.

“All the teams in the Pac-10 are good,” Thorson said. “It’s the best conference in the country by far.”

With just over two weeks to go in the regular season, Cal trails UCLA and Washington in the Pac-10 standings.

“I don’t think we’ve played to our full potential all year. Hopefully, we’ll start peaking in the next couple weeks,” said Thorson, who guided Shorecrest to a state championship in 2001 and a return trip to the title game last spring.

Thorson’s family, friends and ex-teammates will be packing the visitor’s section during this weekend’s games.

“I’ll be playing in front of people I know,” Thorson said. “I’m really excited. I know a lot of people are going.”

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