Mandy Lorenson pitched a no-hitter on March 14. And another on March 16.
And again on April 1.
And April 11.
And April 25.
And April 29.
“Mandy has six no-hitters over her last 13 starts,” says Pima College softball coach Armando Quiroz. “I don’t know how you explain that. This is a hitter’s league. Shutouts are rare. No-hitters? I’ve been here 10 years, and I can only remember one or two.”
ACCAC champion Yavapai College has a .407 team batting average. Phoenix College has scored 532 runs. Even Lorenson’s catcher, Margarita Corona, is hitting .467 with an unfathomable 90 RBIs.
And yet Mandy Lorenson pitched no-hitters the way you’d binge-watch “Breaking Bad.”
Lorenson has been all good.
“If you had told me this would happen early in the season, I wouldn’t have believed it,” says Lorenson, who pitched Ironwood Ridge High School to the Class 5A state championship a year ago. “I had such a rough start, but then I got my first no-hitter, and it was like, ‘OK, let’s just keep it going and see if I can keep improving.’ ”
In her first two college appearances, against No. 2 Salt Lake Community College and Top 25 powerhouse Odessa College, Lorenson gave up 12 runs in two innings. As late as Feb. 25, she was 1-3 with an ERA of (gulp) 18.50.
“It just killed my confidence,” she says.
Quiroz and longtime Tucson pitching coach Tony Rascon studied video of Lorenson’s early-season difficulties. How could a pitcher so dominant at Ironwood Ridge — she was 3-0 in the 2016 state playoffs with a 1.00 ERA — lose her touch so suddenly?
Was the ACCAC too much too soon?
Studying Lorenson’s delivery in super slo-mo, Rascon discovered that Lorenson couldn’t keep the ball low. ACCAC hitters were feasting on pitches up in the strike zone. “Mandy’s arm was lagging behind her body during her delivery,” Quiroz says. “We showed her the video, and she adjusted. For two months she has been lights out.”
The light will shine on Lorenson and the Aztecs when they arrive in Prescott for the Region I championships Friday. Lorenson will be matched against 48-5 Yavapai, the NJCAA’s No. 5-ranked team. The Roughriders beat Pima and Lorenson 4-2 on March 28 as Andrea Sotelo, the nation’s leading hitter (.576) smacked two home runs at 7,000-feet elevation. Otherwise, Lorenson limited Yavapai to three singles.
“Mandy is really unassuming on the mound,” says PCC assistant coach Gene Gonzales. “She isn’t a big, powerful presence; teams look out there and say, ‘We should be able to knock her out.’ But she’s averaging nine strikeouts per seven innings. It seems like she’s been national pitcher of the week every week.”
Pima discovered Lorenson when she was in eighth grade. Quiroz’s daughter, Rebecca, a former state championship softball player at Flowing Wells High School, helped to coach Lorenson on Team Velocity’s AAU summer team.
“Becca said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to come and see this young pitcher. She’s blowing people away,’ ” Quiroz remembers. “At 14, Mandy told us she was going to pitch at Pima. A lot of stuff happens between eighth grade and your freshman year in college, but she stuck to her promise.”
After Lorenson’s no-hit streak began, coaches from four-year colleges noticed. Division II Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, was the first to offer a three-year deal. Lorenson accepted.
“I don’t want to lose her,” says Durazo, “but our job is to move our kids on to four-year schools.”
So who pitches six no-hitters in a softball season? And not against just one team, but against almost every junior college in Maricopa County: Paradise Valley, South Mountain (twice), Scottsdale, Gateway and Chandler-Gilbert.
“Even the opposing coaches would tell me they’ve never heard of anything like this,” says Quiroz.
Although NJCAA records are sketchy, it is believed Lorenson broke the record of four no-hitters in a season by Salt Lake Community College’s Lindsey Palmer, who had four in 2008. At Arizona, former Wildcat All-American Alicia Hollowell Dunn pitched eight no-hitters in 2005, including three perfect games.
Is there anything that could top six no-hitters in a season? A seventh, perhaps?
“Honestly, winning the state championship at Ironwood Ridge last year was the best. I don’t think anything could top that,” Lorenson says.
“If we could win the regionals in Prescott, it would be amazing. I owe my coaches and teammates so much. They didn’t give up on me in February. They should get as much credit as I do.”