After starring in softball as a youngster in New Mexico, Erica Bailey enrolled at Chaparral High four years ago with a resumé saying she was a pitcher capable of throwing a no-hitter every time out. In her first two seasons with the Firebirds, though, Bailey’s only no-no was "no appearance."
Such is life for a young pitcher in a program with a pitching tradition such as Chaparral. Ask veteran coach Jeff Oscarson to name his top pitchers over the years and he has to pause to think so he doesn’t leave anybody out. There was Susie Parra, Erica Beach, Katie Witham and Ramie Garcia, just to name a few.
Thanks to Oscarson’s system of making sure younger pitchers get some live action, Bailey did get to toss a few games her first two seasons, but mostly in tournaments before 4A East Sky Region play began.
"I barely pitched freshman year," said Bailey, choosing her words carefully. "Sophomore year, I pitched more and was 6-0."
Bailey has been making the most of the long-awaited opportunity. After going 24-5 last year, Bailey is 14-2 this season with five no-hitters, including a streak of four in a row early in the season.
While Bailey obviously doesn’t lack confidence, even she was taken aback by the nohitter streak.
"It was amazing," said Bailey. "I didn’t even realize it until maybe like the fourth game. It’s not something like you go out, ‘I’m going to throw four no-hitters in-a-row.’
"It’s definitely not expected but it’s totally welcomed. I think a lot of the work has paid off in the preseason."
Surprisingly, Bailey said she usually doesn’t even know she has thrown a nohitter until the final out is recorded.
"You don’t talk about no-hitters," said Bailey. "After the game, I realize that I threw them, but I don’t talk about them the day after."
What is hard to believe is that Bailey didn’t know she had a no-hitter going
last week in a victory over Apache Junction. It ended up being a perfect game. You would think you would notice something like that.
"I didn’t realize it was a perfect game," said Bailey, "until the last pitch was thrown. They (A.J.) kept saying, ‘Break it up, break it up.’ I was like, ‘(break up) what?’ "
Bailey credits much of her success to the coaching she receives from Beach, who is a former Arizona State University star and now a Chaparral assistant.
"Erica Beach has been a huge part of it," said Bailey. "Because she is a pitcher and has had so much success, she helps me with the mental part of the game more than anything, like if I get freaked out or a pitch isn’t working at all, she understands it."