Work weeks just don't get any better than Randi Rupp's
Consider these two pitchers in their four most recent appearances.
Pitcher A: 31 innings pitched, 15 hits, 26 strikeouts, 0.87 ERA, 0.68 WHIP.
Pitcher B: 24 2/3 innings pitched, 11 hits, 29 strikeouts, 0.28 ERA, 0.69 WHIP.
Pitcher A is Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, who some baseball pundits suggest is in the midst of one of the greatest pitching tears in Major League Baseball history and whose line above included a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.
Pitcher B is Texas State's Randi Rupp. And she did her work in the span of about 90 hours.
That is presented purely for fun, not as an attempt to compare the absolute merits of one sport to the other or one level to another. If not apples and oranges, it's apples and pears.
But it's also illustrative of just how well the Bobcats ace pitched in a week when her team needed nothing less. It's why the sophomore ace is espnW's national player of the week.
It is also why after Rupp struck out 12 batters and allowed just five hits and one earned run in a complete game win Saturday to open a weekend series against Sun Belt power South Alabama, Texas State coach Ricci Woodard decided to run it back in the nightcap.
"I was standing out there five minutes after the game," Woodard said, "And I thought 'Why don't we just keep going with her and not even give them a chance to get on a roll.' We were playing a team that once they get the momentum, it's hard to get it back from them.
"We just decided to keep the momentum in our hands and keep rolling with her."
In her second start of the day, Rupp threw a one-hit shutout with eight strikeouts. It marked the first time this season that she threw two complete games in one day.
Woodard wanted to rest Rupp in Sunday's finale, one eye on a looming midweek game against Texas A&M. But as she looked out at the infield in the top of the second inning and saw the bases loaded with Jaguars and no outs, she took a chance. The series had enormous postseason implications for Texas State, first in chasing a top four seed in the conference tournament -- anything worse requires playing two single-elimination games in one day just to reach the double-elimination portion of the Sun Belt bracket. But second, it also mattered in terms of RPI, in which both South Alabama and Texas State were ranked in the top 50 a week ago, just beyond the normal range of NCAA tournament at-large consideration.
So in came Rupp with the bases loaded. Down went the next three hitters on strikeouts.
South Alabama didn't get another runner to second base until there were two outs in the seventh. The game ended with her there, Rupp throwing six innings of one-hit shutout relief.
The week, which also included a tough-luck loss at Baylor with three unearned runs, was an indication that Rupp is only getting better as her second season goes along. That has a lot to do with a changeup that she is increasingly willing to throw -- and that her pitching coach is increasingly willing to call.
"When you can throw the ball hard in and out, and then have a changeup on top of it, it makes it hard to stay on balance as a hitter," Woodard said. "[The changeup has] come a long way now. She can throw it for a strike now, she can throw it kind of wherever she wants to throw it. I think that pitch alone has helped her get a lot of zeros in a lot of innings right now."
You may also know the pitching coach in question, now in her second season in San Marcos.
"The only issue I have is I never threw a changeup a lot," Cat Osterman said in the preseason. "So for me, mixing in offspeed is a little more of a challenge just because that is not an automatic thought in my head whatsoever. Now I've obviously worked on it, and I know we all need to have it. So I try to, especially in scrimmages, almost overthrow it, so that way I'm really seeing it and what it looks like and when we can use it."
South Alabama hitters saw it plenty this past weekend. More than they ever wanted.