Northeast Times

All in the Family: Reuscher finds softball magic

Tori Re­uscher, Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity soft­ball pitch­er, at prac­tice in Fleuhr Park, Fri­day, April 6, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

Start­Frag­ment

When Tori Re­uscher had to face the un­ex­pec­ted death of her biggest sup­port­er, she leaned on her 20 new fam­ily mem­bers to get her through her darkest days.

Now, she’s flour­ish­ing and even ex­ceed­ing her own ex­pect­a­tions.

Re­uscher, a Chel­ten­ham nat­ive and sopho­more pitch­er for the Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity soft­ball team, is hav­ing the sea­son of a life­time, but it cer­tainly did not come easy.

A 2010 gradu­ate of Little Flower High School, Re­uscher is no stranger to ath­let­ic suc­cess. Dur­ing her sopho­more sea­son, she was named hon­or­able men­tion All-Cath­ol­ic League; as a ju­ni­or, she par­ti­cip­ated in the Car­penter Cup All-Star Clas­sic; and as a seni­or earned All-Cath­ol­ic second-team hon­ors.

However, she was be­hind a long line of dom­in­ant Little Flower pitch­ers and had to wait her turn to shine in the pitch­ing circle. She didn’t see con­sist­ent ac­tion as the team’s top start­ing pitch­er un­til her seni­or year, and as a res­ult was not re­cruited by any col­lege pro­grams.

As a fall­back op­tion, Re­uscher chose a loc­al school that boas­ted a strong pro­gram in her de­sired field of nurs­ing, and thought she’d roll the dice and try to walk onto the Holy Fam­ily soft­ball team, a Di­vi­sion II mem­ber of the Cent­ral At­lantic Col­legi­ate Con­fer­ence (CACC). The en­tire pro­cess of earn­ing a walk-on spot was a ma­jor chal­lenge in and of it­self.

EARLY CHAL­LENGES

“Per­son­ally, I wish I got to sign a na­tion­al let­ter of in­tent, be­cause it was al­ways a dream of mine to get to com­mit to a col­lege soft­ball pro­gram,” she said be­fore a Fri­day af­ter­noon prac­tice on Holy Fam­ily’s cam­pus. “When I ended up at Holy Fam­ily, I knew I’d have to fight even harder to make their team. Prob­lem was, when I got here they didn’t have a coach, so I was sort of stuck in limbo not know­ing if I’d get to play again.”

Holy Fam­ily hired Dav­on Or­tega as the school’s fifth soft­ball coach in June 2010, and it was right around that time that an e-mail Re­uscher had sent to mem­bers of the ath­let­ic de­part­ment ex­press­ing her in­terest to play found its way in­to the new coach’s in­box. After a three-day try­out peri­od, Or­tega gave Re­uscher the good news that her dream of play­ing col­lege soft­ball had just be­come a real­ity.

However, things only got more dif­fi­cult from there.

As a fresh­man walk-on, Re­uscher did not see much ac­tion, and the time she did get did not treat her very well. She man­aged only one hit in 10 at-bats on of­fense and com­piled a 1-4 re­cord to go with a 5.21 earned run av­er­age in 17 pitch­ing ap­pear­ances (in­clud­ing six starts).

Re­uscher entered the off-sea­son de­term­ined to work even harder to prove that the dis­ap­point­ment of her fresh­man sea­son was an ab­er­ra­tion, and a strong sum­mer of train­ing had her well on her way to boun­cing back. That was when tragedy struck.

DEV­AST­AT­ING NEWS

Re­uscher’s fath­er passed away un­ex­pec­tedly in Septem­ber, turn­ing her world up­side down. All of a sud­den, she had lost her first-ever soft­ball coach, as well as her closest con­fid­ant and sup­port­er.

“He was such a big part of my life, and he really helped me real­ize a lot of my dreams,” she said, un­suc­cess­fully fight­ing back tears. “He let me choose my own path. He pushed me so hard, but at the same time he was my biggest sup­port­er. I wouldn’t be this per­son that I am today without his in­flu­ence on my life.”

With her fath­er gone, Re­uscher coun­ted on the love and sup­port from her Holy Fam­ily coaches and team­mates to get through such a heart-wrench­ing time.

When she pos­ted news of her fath­er’s death on Face­book, Re­uscher said her new fam­ily sprung to her side without hes­it­a­tion. At least a half-dozen of her team­mates showed up at her house to help see her through the pain.

“To have eight­een oth­er girls and two coaches be there for me like they were was the best thing in the world,” Re­uscher said. “They are the prime ex­ample of team­mates — any­thing I needed, they were there for me.”

As crushed as she was fol­low­ing her fath­er’s death, Re­uscher channeled her frus­tra­tion and sad­ness and let it all loose on the field. The sub­sequent res­ults have been eye-pop­ping.

In 20 ap­pear­ances (17 starts) so far this sea­son, Re­uscher has pitched to an 8-7 re­cord with a mi­cro­scop­ic 1.47 earned run av­er­age, a mark that cur­rently places her in the top 50 of all Di­vi­sion II soft­ball play­ers.

In ad­di­tion to wins and ERA, she leads the Ti­gers in in­nings pitched (104.2), com­plete games (13) and shutouts (four). Her ef­forts have helped Holy Fam­ily to a 15-15 re­cord thus far this sea­son after the team won just 13 games in 2011.

Holy Fam­ily also boasts an 8-6 mark in the CACC, which is cur­rently good enough for fifth in the con­fer­ence (the Ti­gers were picked to fin­ish ninth in the pre­season poll).

And just for good meas­ure, Re­uscher fired her first ever no-hit­ter on March 17 in the CACC open­er over Ny­ack Col­lege.

SHAR­ING THE CRED­IT

“I’m still in shock, and all of this stuff still doesn’t seem real to me,” she said. “I can’t ask for a bet­ter group of girls to ex­per­i­ence this suc­cess with, and I can’t put in­to words what Coach Or­tega tak­ing a chance on me means to me. She saw what I was cap­able of and stuck with me she has as much to do with my suc­cess as I do.”

Pre­dict­ably, Or­tega was quick to de­flect praise back to­ward her star pitch­er.

“She worked really hard to get in­to our ro­ta­tion this sea­son, and with her dad passing away, she’s worked even harder to be­come my top pitch­er,” Or­tega said. “It’s amaz­ing how she’s bounced back, and I know that every time she pitches, she feels closer to her fath­er. She is just an in­cred­ible, in­cred­ible per­son, and I’ve been touched by her work eth­ic, com­mit­ment and per­son­al­ity.”

For her part, Re­uscher is just liv­ing in the mo­ment and rel­ish­ing every op­por­tun­ity to stand out on the soft­ball dia­mond again, something that two years ago seemed like an im­possible fantasy.

And al­though her fath­er is no longer here in per­son to wit­ness her suc­cess, Re­uscher knows he’s out there some­where, watch­ing down on her every time she takes the field.

“He was at every one of my games, and coached me through all of my ups and downs,” she said. “And even though he’s gone, I still ask for his help out there. When things get rough, I ask for his guid­ance, and any­time I get a strikeout or we turn a big double play, I thank him, be­cause I wouldn’t be where I am right now if not for his love and sup­port.” ••

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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