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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rachel Pence Steps Into Justin's World, Part Deux

Photo cred: Amanda Stratford Photography
Last Friday, I had the privilege of featuring Part One of my interview with Florida Tech freshman phenom-pitcher Rachel Pence. At that time, we had only talked about the first start of her career when she threw a perfect game. Today, we're going to branch out into some other topics, including the rest of the season & her career and my patented (well, "patent pending") Robinson Crusoe question.

[Please recall that this is a transcript of the interview, which took place by phone, so please forgive any typographical or grammatical errors on my part.]

I hope you enjoy Part 2 of this interview with Rachel, and remember to follow FIT Softball on Twitter (@FITSoftball) & Facebook to keep up with Rachel's season.


Justin's World: I was looking at your season stats, after the perfect game: 1.63 ERA; 6 complete games; 5-1 win-loss record; 34 strikeouts; 7 walks; and a .217 opponent's batting average. The perfect game had to be an incredible way to start your career, but you've not really gone down at all-you're pretty much still riding high. How does this start set you up for the rest of the season and seasons later, as you continue your career as a sophomore, junior, etc.?

Rachel Pence: Well, it's definitely something that's really exciting, but at the same time, for me, seeing the start that I've had is kind of humbling for me. Going into the season and coming to school, I knew that God was going to do something with me on the softball field. I didn't know what he was going to do, I didn't know when he was going to choose to do it, but I knew that he was gonna work through me on the softball field. I guess I just didn't expect all of this success to come so fast because it really has. And something that I work on in practice and in games, it doesn't matter who I'm playing, I pitch my absolute best. And if we're playing a team that doesn't have very good bats, then I want to be striking out people that I should be striking out. And if we're playing a really, really good team, then I want to be helping to produce outs where I should be helping to produce outs. So this start to the season has definitely set a tone which I'm really excited about. But, at the same time, in sports, you can never be satisfied, you can never be content with where you're at, you have to keep getting better and keep seeing areas that you can improve in. The last game we played was my first personal loss of the season and we lost 5-0. And obviously there, there's so many areas I can improve on. You know, when we do win, I don't always hit spots, I don't always pitch the way I would like to, so it's all about seeing where you need to continue to grow. And I think for the future years, it's going to be exciting because my name is getting out there and after the season, people are going to know how I pitch. So something that's exciting for me is that, as I continue to play the same teams, still trying to beat those same guys because the more a batter sees you, the more likely they are to hit you. But as a pitcher it's really challenging and it's really exciting to still see a swing-and-miss, even in my senior year. So just developing myself as a pitcher in the upcoming years and trying to bring something new to the table each and every year. 

JW: And now I want to ask you about your faith. I've followed you on Facebook, seen some of your posts. You've already mentioned it more than once since we've been talking here; it's obvious that your faith is really important to you. How does your faith affect you when you're on the field and in the circle?

RP: Well, I think the cool thing about God is He just gives a peace about things and He provides this feeling that, even if I'm not pitching my best, even if I'm not doing my best, and even if I have an awful game, I know that it doesn't matter what my friends say, it doesn't matter what my parents say, it doesn't what my coaches say, I know that I belong to a team. I know that I belong to God. And so, I think that when I'm on the field, it takes away all of those worries. It takes away the anxieties that some athletes have when they get into pressure situations because I don't have to worry about that because I know that God has given me my talents and abilities for a reason, and I know that He chose to give them to me, just like He chose to give them to other athletes that are on the field with me and so, I think knowing that I'm not out there playing for me, I'm out there playing to show off the talents that He's given me and I'm out there playing for my teammates so I think my faith definitely gives me a peace about a lot of thinks and it helps me not to worry and just to trust myself and trust in what He's doing, and like I said, even if I do have an awful day, I know that at the end of the day, my goal is that God's name is glorified and that He gets the credit for stuff. So even when I have a bad day, I know that that's setting the stage for a platform where something else is going to come where God is going to be awesome. So I think that all of that put together just gives me an inner peace that doesn't come from anywhere else. 

JW: Like you were saying, it really has to be an important thing to you, to be as outspoken about your faith as you are, especially on such a platform as you've been given now. You know, a lot of times you'll see that with somebody - they get to "riding high" and it's really easy sometimes for people to get to that level and then just realize how great they are. How have you kept yourself grounded and realizing that God is still working and is really the biggest part of that?

RP: I think one of the biggest things for me is staying in the Word, and continually seeing what God has to say to me through the Bible. And so I think by reading through stuff... as a Christian, my goal is to be as Christlike as possible and to read the different stories about Jesus and how humble He was and how He served the people and how He went among the worst of the worst people, the most sickly people, and to see how humble Jesus was, that really means that I should be that humble, so I think staying in the Word helps keep me humble, and I also have really, really great parents who are both strong in their walk with Christ, and my mom especially has done a great job through my whole softball career. Actually, it's funny-One year I was playing travel ball and I got home from a tournament early and I didn't want to go to church on Sunday and she was like "Fine. You don't have to go, but you have to write these verses on index cards." And ever since then, I carry some of those index cards with me and we started memorizing verses during games. And some of my teammates and I still do that and it's kind of cool that my mom - both of my parents really did continually remind me that I'm a daughter of the King, I'm not here for me. So between having fantastic parents and surrounding myself with Christian people and keeping myself in the Word and keeping my mind on Eternal things, not earthly things, I think that's what really helps keep me grounded.

JW: Now, I always like to throw in a "fun question". So let's say you were Robinson Crusoe-style on a deserted island, and you were allowed to have three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you take?

RP: Oh man. OK, so, if I was stranded on a deserted island, I'd definitely want my Bible. And then, you know, if I've got God, I've basically got everything, so... I don't know. Maybe like a water filter, so I wouldn't drink salty water and I could drink regular water? And... maybe like a knife or something so that I could, like, stab a fish or get a coconut? (laughs) So those are my three things - a Bible, a water filter, and a knife.

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