SAN DIEGO - The UC San Diego women's softball team starts its 10th appearance in the NCAA regionals Thursday and they go in riding the strong left-arm of freshman Robyn Wampler.
Wampler has won conference pitcher of the week honors three times and just earned the San Diego Hall of Champions' star of the month.
In her first season at UCSD, Wampler exceeded her own expectations, quickly becoming one of the best pitchers in the conference.
"I think coming in, I wasn't expecting to get anywhere near the amount of playing time I've gotten," said Wampler. "I wasn't expecting to do as well as I've done but I think the team has just been amazing and super supportive."
Her 134 strikeouts, five saves and a 24-8 record lead the California College Athletic Association conference. The left-hander also owns a 1.67 ERA, ranking her top 25 in the nation.
"We do a lot of visualization," said Wampler. "So when I wake up, I just think about the game and think about pitches that I want to throw and during warm-ups. When I'm walking to class, when I'm walking to the field, I just think about how I'm going to do and just visualize doing well."
Wampler says the mental training has allowed her to grow as a pitcher and handle pressure situations better, two reasons behind why she was named the conference freshman of the year.
"It adds a little bit of pressure," she said. "It adds a little bit of confidence but I think that that pressure helps me, helps the team and again the mental part of it just knowing that I was named the freshman of the year helps me get through some hard parts of the season."
The Tritons finished conference play 27-13, second overall behind Chico State. Their post-season push will continue in the opening round of the NCAA Division II West Regional, where they'll face fourth-seeded Cal Baptist.
"We need to take it just one pitch at a time, one game at a time," said Wampler. "Just going through, knowing that we can do what we want to do as long as we have the heart and the will."
If they want to win, Wampler knows that she'll have to rely on experience to make it happen.
"There's just been so many pressure-filled situations that I've put myself in, the team has put ourselves in, that we've gotten through and taking that into post-season and knowing that we can get through the pressure situations," she said.
And Wampler has proven she can do just that.
The winner of the four-team, double elimination tournament advances to the Super Regional round, May 17 and 18.