By Michael DeBates
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Iowa State junior pitcher Tori Torrescano has had big shoes to fill this season with the departure of one of Cyclone softball's all-time greats in the circle, pitcher Rachel Zabriskie.
Zabriskie left Iowa State as the softball program's all-time leader in appearances (171), games started (138), complete games (87), innings pitched (884.2), strikeouts (815), wins (67) and saves (7).
It has been Torrescano's responsibility this year to fill the void left by Zabriskie as she is now the No. 1 starter in the rotation and expected to carry the load of the pitching staff. With that important role of being the team's No. 1 starter, comes much added pressure and mental strain. Torrescano has leaned on Zabriskie and kept in contact with her whenever she is need of some advice.
"Rachel has taught me a lot. She's a great leader and was an awesome person to have in front of me to learn from," Torrescano said. "She's taught me a lot of good coping mechanisms on how to deal with things like losing and pitching most of the innings. We still keep in contact, so it's nice to have a person like her to turn to for advice whenever I need it."
Last season Torrescano was in the lineup mainly for her offense. She was the team's DP most of the year and saw some time in leftfield as the season drew to a close. Her offensive numbers were outstanding in her sophomore campaign. She batted .325, tied a school record for home runs in a season (11) and finished tied for first on the team with 51 hits.
Head coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler had full confidence in Torrescano making a smooth transition to pitching full-time.
"I actually recruited her out of high school as a pitcher and not a position player, so there wasn't any worries from me about how well she'd make the transition from the outfield and DP to the circle," Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. "I've always expected her to throw."
Torrescano did happen to gain some valuable experience pitching last season throwing 78.1 innings despite mainly getting in the line-up at DP. This year she has already exceeded that total, throwing 107.2 innings. She's been throwing a lot more in practice to build up stamina, but has focused more on dealing with the mental strains of pitching a lot of innings.
"The mental part of the game when you're throwing a lot can be very tough," Torrescano said. "With the added pressure this year it can get stressful at times."
Despite her new role handling the bulk of the innings in the circle, Torrescano has picked up right where she left off last season as one of the team's top offensive threats. She currently ranks second in batting average (.333), first in home runs (10), first in RBIs (34), first in slugging percentage (.707), first in total bases (70) and first in walks (14) on the team.
"Being able to hit actually helps keep me sane when I'm in the circle," Torrescano said. "My approach is still the same at the plate even though I'm pitching more. It hasn't changed at all from last season."
Torrescano has struggled at times this year in the circle, but has remained confident and not allowed it to effect any other part of her game.
"Struggling when I'm throwing hasn't had a major effect on my hitting at all." Torrescano said. "When I struggle, it makes me want to do better and redeem myself at the plate."
Torrescano's numbers offensively also make her one of the most dangerous hitters in the Big 12 Conference. She currently ranks in the top ten in four major statistical categories; home runs (fourth), RBIs (fourth), slugging percentage (fifth) and total bases (eighth).
Because of her ability to cover so many different aspects with her swing, it has enabled Torrescano to remain one of the top and most consistent hitters for the Cyclones all season.
"Tori has been super consistent all year long at the plate," Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. "She has great hand-eye coordination and she always puts her barrel in a position to the ball that enables her to be successful with a lot of different pitches. It's huge for us that she can effectively hit inside out."
Gemeinhardt-Cesler and the rest of the Cyclone softball program expect nothing but big things from Torrescano during her future in Ames.
"She's done an awesome job here so far," Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. "I think she's continuing to work hard on things all the time to improve and I really look forward to her future with us. I'm glad with what she's already accomplished, but I think there's so much more she can do. It's exciting to have the chance to be able to watch her continue to get better and better as her career progresses."
The Cyclones (12-25 overall, 1-8 Big 12), who are finishing up the later part of their regular season schedule, recently upset 17th-ranked Texas A&M 2-1 in game three of their weekend series with the Aggies. Torrescano picked up the win going all seven innings, striking out four and allowing just three hits.