San Diego State senior pitcher Bailey Micetich stands in the middle of the pitching circle of SDSU Softball Stadium as she waits for her teammate to get set in the batter’s box. The sun slowly begins to disappear from view as each Aztec softball player still wears her red game-day uniform from the team pictures taken earlier that day.
“Three more outs,” yells head coach Kathy Van Wyk.
This will be the last half-inning of the inter-squad scrimmage. Practice is almost done. The stadium lights turn on as Micetich looks for the sign from her catcher.
One by one, the batters dig in to face the team’s top returning pitcher from last season’s NCAA Regional squad.
Three up, three down. The Woodland native runs back to the dugout and high-fives each teammate heading in from the field.
“We all put in the work together,” Micetich said. “We all support each other.”
That team chemistry has made the Aztecs a national power with seven trips to the NCAA Tournament in the last 11 years, including four consecutive. Micetich has participated in the last three.
The Aztecs began their season last week against Texas Tech as a part of the Kajikawa Classic at Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona State is the team that ended the Aztecs’ 2011 season. The Sun Devils are also the defending national champions.
It was May 22 when the Sun Devils beat the Aztecs, 6-1, at Alberta B. Farrington Softball Stadium on their way to a national championship season as the No. 1 overall seed of the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament.
Micetich did not pitch in that last game. Instead, then-senior Samantha Beasley took the loss. Micetich had pitched the previous game, a 6-4 win against Long Beach State to give the Aztecs one more breath of life. Throughout five innings of work, Micetich allowed only one earned run and three hits while striking out three of the 23 batters she faced.
But that was a long time ago.
This season, Micetich knows she will be the “center of attention” on an Aztecs team that is receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls and was ranked No. 23 by College Sports Madness.
“To be honest, I like to be the center of attention,” Micetich said as she laughed. “I like to touch the ball every single time.”
With all eyes being on her, College Sports Madness preseason pitcher of the year hopes she can lead the Aztecs to a level of success not seen since the 2001 season, when SDSU came within inches of its first-ever Women’s College World Series berth.
“Ultimately, I want us to win a Mountain West Conference championship,” Micetich said. “I’ve been waiting for that for three years. I want that and then I want us to get out of that regional and make it to a super (regionals), then get to the College World Series.”
Those look like lofty goals for a softball player who wanted to quit the sport at an early age, but decided to stick with it.
“My mom was the one telling me, ‘No, you’re not going to quit; Yes, you’re going to go pitch for an hour,’” Micetich said. “Even when I wanted to quit softball, (my parents) were the ones who told me to finish, and look at me now.”
Micetich would go on to have an extraordinary high school career, winning four letters at Pioneer High School and helping the Patriots win four consecutive Tri-County League championships, as well as a 2006 section championship.
Individually, Micetich captured league MVP honors in her final three years and all-league for all four years. During high school she was also named an all-state small school’s selection and was a Sacramento Bee All-Metro first and second-team selection.
This led to serious recruiting attention.
“The schools that were looking at me ultimately came down to Nevada-Reno, Fresno State and here,” Micetich said.
“We (the coaching staff) loved her motion because she’s just slow, methodical and smooth, and very deliberate with her delivery,” Van Wyk said. “We liked that poise. Immediately when we called her, she sounded thrilled and very excited. I think we were one of her top choices right away. We were able to land a good one, but I don’t think we knew how good.”
Her first year on Montezuma Mesa, Micetich was named the MWC Freshman of the Year after totaling 19 wins, 11 shutouts and 180 strikeouts. Other awards she received her freshman year included making the All-MWC team and being named the MWC Pitcher of the Week twice.
“I almost started crying at practice when coach told me I won Freshman of the Year,” she said.
As a junior, Micetich would again find herself on the All-MWC team as she went 20-12 with a 1.85 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 174 1/3 innings. She would be named the MW Pitcher of the Week three times and was chosen as a part of the 2011 Easton NCAA Division I All-America Third-Team.
A season like that leads to high expectations for this season, a season in which Micetich is the straw that stirs the drink.
“I think that she is in a leadership position as a pitcher just because it’s inherent in the position,” Van Wyk said. “She wants to have a great senior year. She wants to go out and finish strong. Her performances from the past have gained her a lot of respect from her teammates, so it’s going to lead us to a great season.”
As Micetich enters her final season as an Aztec, she can’t help but to feel mixed emotions.
“It’s bittersweet,” Micetich said. “I’m excited, but I’m a little sad because it’s my last season, but I mean what better way to go out with a bang.”
Regardless of this season’s success, Micetich will enjoy every moment.
Feb.17 vs. Notre Dame, Oregon State
Feb. 18 vs. UCF, UC Davis
Feb. 19 vs. UCLA
Feb. 23 vs. Oklahoma, Texas
Feb. 24 vs. New Mexico State
Feb. 25 vs. Iowa State
Feb. 26 vs. Stanford, Cal State Northridge
March 1 vs. BYU
March 2 vs. Fresno State, Charlotte
March 3 vs. Saint Joseph’s, Nevada
March 4 vs. Long Beach State
March 6 vs. Maine
March 9 vs. Butler, Connecticut
March 10 vs. California
March 11 vs. Purdue, Oregon
March 13 vs. Quinnipiac
March 15 vs. Harvard
March 16 vs. Purdue
March 17 vs. Quinnipiac, Valparaiso
March 18 vs. Long Beach State
March 23 vs. Princeton, at Pacific
Mach 24 vs. Saint Mary’s
March 27-28 at Arizona
April 13-15 vs. Colorado State
April 18 at San Diego
April 20-22 at New Mexico
April 25 vs. Cal State Fullerton
May 2 at Cal State Fullerton
May 4-6 vs. Boise State
May 10-12 at UNLV