There is not much senior left-hander Desiree Ybarra, known to her teammates as "Desi," can't endure. Over the past four seasons, she has spent time in and out of the lineup, for reasons beyond her control.
Her freshman season, she came in with an elbow injury that would require surgery later that year.
Her sophomore season, she suffered a back injury.
Her junior season, she redshirted due to the back injury, which had worsened.
Her redshirt junior season, last year, she sustained a concussion the day before conference play began, sidelining her until the final series of the season.
But this season, her final as a Titan, marks the first time Ybarra has pitched a full season healthy. She has shined in the circle, totaling 12 wins, 10 complete games, three shutouts and one save with a 1.70 earned-run average in 29 appearances with 19 starts. Striking out 113 batters, Ybarra has allowed just 50 walks and 102 hits in 123.1 innings.
The southpaw out of Riverside Poly High School ranks third in the Big West Conference in ERA and third in opponent batting average (.222).
"It's so nice to see her take the field. There's a resilience about her," Titan coach Kelly Ford said. "Some people would throw in the towel, but there's a fight in her that wasn't going to let that happen. There is so much fight in her. She's just a fierce competitor."
It is no coincidence that Ybarra's play has coincided with the Titans' rise this season. The program boasted a 12-0 conference record through Saturday, its best start since 2002, when it went 13-0. The Titans were 38-10 overall through Saturday, surpassing the team's win total from the previous three seasons.
For the first time in her college career, the human services major was able to prepare for the season without feeling hindered by her previous injuries. With no limits, she worked to get in the best shape she could last summer, running daily and working on her core strength. She completed squats and sprints, preparing for the team's rigorous fitness test, which includes 300-yard shuttles. She completed pitching drills with game-like speed and intensity and even practiced hitting.
She has seen a mental, as well as physical, payoff. "I think the outside work that I'm doing is making me feel a little bit more confident in my game," Ybarra said.
"I'm not as stressed," she said. "I'm just able to go out there and just play."
Ybarra has twice been named Big West Pitcher of the Week this season. She collected a career-high 11 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout against No. 23 Fresno State on March 22.
She also thrived in the Titans' conference opener against UC Riverside, pitching all six innings and allowing just one run on five hits, while striking out seven and walking one. She earned her first save of the season in the team's second game against Riverside.
Recently, she pitched her 10th complete game of the season, against Hawaii, allowing just one run on seven hits in seven innings of work. She walked one and fanned six for her 12th win of the season.
Fullerton pitching coach Tori Tyson said that Ybarra has given her team a boost in terms of veteran leadership. Ybarra has earned the respect not only of her staff, but also of her team as a whole.
"Her team trusts her because they trust the work that she puts in, and she's a student of the game and she's never content," said Tyson, who has known Ybarra since she was 16. Tyson coached her one summer on the 16-U Corona Angels club team, which took ninth in the nation. Tyson's father, Marty Tyson, who is head of the Angels, coached Ybarra on the 18-U team (fellow Titans Kylie Padilla and Alexis Gonzalez also played for the Angels).
Ybarra is focused on helping the Titans earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament. The team sits in first place in the Big West. She is no longer worried about potential injuries popping up or previous injuries coming back. All Ybarra can think of is: when's the next pitch?
This article was written by Mirin Fader from Orange County Register and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.