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Finding power

Valencia grad Alyssa Ishibashi’s moment of realization has lasting effects

Posted: April 27, 2009 10:36 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

North Carolina State sophomore 5-foot-2-inch second baseman Alyssa Ishibashi is hitting .276 with 16 runs, 15 RBIs and two home runs for the Wolfpack this season.

 
Alyssa Ishibashi is not physically intimidating.

But as a sophomore with North Carolina State softball, the compact second baseman is finding her power.

Standing 5-foot-2, she leads the team with a .276 batting average to go along with 16 runs scored and 15 RBIs and has started all 46 games for the Wolfpack this season.

However, it is her two home runs that stand out the most.

On March 31 in a doubleheader against Elon University, Ishibashi's hard work paid off.

Her first hit was a two-run home run over the left-center field wall. She finished 3-for-3 in the game with two runs and two RBIs, and NC State won 10-2.

It was the first home run of her softball career.

A few hours later, Ishibashi hit her second, a line drive over the center field wall.

"I didn't even realize it at first," she says. "My whole team was freaking out saying, ‘Oh my gosh it went over the fence.' I had been close - warning-track shots, doubles off the fence.

"‘Well it is about time,' my coaches were joking with me. ‘Oh, did you lift extra weights?' They were asking me what I ate for breakfast."

For Ishibashi, it was a sign of progress that started with a mental breakthrough a little over a year earlier.

A month into the 2008 season, NC State played the USA Olympic Softball team in an exhibition in Clearwater, Fla.
Then a freshman, Ishibashi found herself looking across the diamond at such players as Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez, Andrea Duran, Jessica Mendoza, Caitlin Lowe and Canyon High graduate Crystl Bustos.

"All the great players I watched playing growing up," she recalls. "It was really weird to hit against them. ... You try not to be intimidated, but you are looking around thinking, ‘Is this really happening?"'

In two at-bats, Ishibashi lined out to short and to center field.

Regardless, an impression was made.

"I think that was the turning point last season," she says. "I hit two balls hard fair. (I thought) if I can hit off these pitchers, then I should probably be able to do this against college pitchers."

Everything began to click, and after 38 games she was hitting .265, good for third on the team.

However, she was doing it with a partially torn ligament in her left shoulder, an injury that she says ultimately affected her swing and fielding.

The pain grew to be too much and she had to end her season prematurely in order to get treatment.

"It was rough sitting on the sideline watching," she says. "I don't want to do that again. So it really motivated me to work harder this year."

Her production this season is proof.

Shaking off injury and continuing to dedicate herself to her craft, the small second baseman is also leading the Wolfpack in total hits with 37, taking the next step from her days at Valencia High.

"She was a scrawny ninth grader, and came out as a seasoned veteran," says Vikings head coach Donna Lee, who coached her during the 2007 season, when Valencia won the national championship. "I was really fortunate to have her in my program."

News of Ishibashi's progress brought clear excitement to Lee.

"We would hoot and holler for her when she would hit home runs during practice," she recalls. "She is not a very big girl, and when she hits the ball over the fence you are like, ‘How did she do that?' She's definitely got the swing. When she hit it, she hit it far."

Noting what kind of commitment is required to play college softball, Ishibashi says she spends most of her free time studying.

There is little time for anything else.

She says she currently wants to major in history and possibly teach, perhaps even coach softball.

Prior to choosing NC State, Ishibashi looked at Louisiana State University, the University of North Carolina and Cal State Fullerton.

She wanted something new and liked the coaches and chemistry of the Wolfpack.

Whether in the classroom or on the field, given the opportunity, she is making the most of it.

"When you go to school and you are on scholarship for sports, not many people get the opportunity to go out of state for school and experience different things," she says. "I'm not really sure where I will end up, but if I do end up going back to California, I don't want to say that I didn't experience different things and weigh my options."


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