The ball is in Dana Thomsen’s hand. Literally.
Thomsen, a former Petaluma High and Santa Rosa Junior College ace, will be spending a lot of time in the pitcher’s circle this season after her fellow senior and starting pitcher for the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine, Brittany Hitchcock, was sidelined with what coach Bob Coolen called a season-ending injury.
Thomsen is the new No. 1.
“Dana has to pick up the ball a lot more,” Coolen said. “It’s a capacity we didn’t have to use her in last year.”
But for Thomsen, being needed might be just what she needs.
“Obviously, I would love to have Brittany on the mound with me, but it’s also really cool,” she said. “It reminds me of high school or being young and knowing I pitch every game.”
At Petaluma High not only did Thomsen pitch every game, she blew the doors off every game.
As a senior, Thomsen was The Press Democrat 2013 All-Empire Player of the Year after going 17-1 with an earned run average of 0.71 and 145 strikeouts. She allowed just 16 walks.
She was also successful at Santa Rosa Junior College.
As a freshman for the Bear Cubs, she was 15-4 with 2.73 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 17 walks. As a sophomore, she went 17-11 with a 2.08 ERA, striking out 239 and walking 31.
But after her sophomore year, her softball future was unclear. She stayed on with the Bear Cubs as an unpaid volunteer coach, pitched batting practice, worked out and focused on her academic load. She started to think of life after softball.
The University of Hawaii was on her short list of transfer options. Some included softball, others did not.
“I knew her in high school,” Coolen said. “She had a great career at Santa Rosa, then I got the message that she was coming here and I was like ‘Wow that is awesome.’”
Thomsen started off strong for the Rainbow Wahine her junior year, running up impressive numbers and gaining confidence. Then the Rainbow Wahine started Big West Conference play.
“Those first couple of games were shocking,” she said. “I kind of went in and was ‘Oh I can do exactly what I did in the preseason and blow it by them.’ But they are not going to chase a rise ball and not just let a screwball miss. It was definitely eye-opening.”
Coolen saw Thomsen get rattled.
“She was 7-2 and had 9.2 strikeouts per game,” Coolen said of preseason. “Then conference came around and she was 7-7 and ended up 8-7.”
Coolen wants Thomsen to stick with her bread and butter: the rise ball and changeup.
“She has a great change-up when she doesn’t rush it. Last year her change-up and rise ball were getting her outs,” he said. “This year she is going more in and out, rather than up and down, and that is hurting her because she is getting hit.”
Coolen wants his pitcher to have ice in her veins. Thomsen leans a little more to the fire side of the spectrum.
“She gets affected a little more with what is going on around her rather than staying in her bubble,” he said. “She’s emotional. With that being said, sometimes her emotions get in the way of her being a leader. You want your leader to be emotionally strong, nothing bothers them. They have that one look about them that they are confident all the time. Sometimes Dana loses that edge. When he loses it, the team doesn’t know what to do. If she breaks down, they break down.”