Villanova's Paige Rauch Leads In The Circle, At The Plate
In past seasons, Shannon Williams and Kate Poppe established themselves as two of the best pitchers to ever play at Villanova. Now, Paige Rauch is ready to add her name to that list.
So far this season, Rauch has a 9-2 pitching record and an ERA of 2.35. She holds a career 2.74 ERA and averages more than one strikeout per inning.
But how did she make it this far to get her name so highly acclaimed? It starts with the endless time and effort Rauch puts into her work on the field.
“It is definitely an honor, especially since Villanova has had a few pitchers that have been really spectacular in previous seasons,” Rauch said. “I think a lot of it is just the extra time and showing up early and staying late to throw bullpens and work on pitches.”
Over the course of her softball career, it took Rauch and her coaching staff a long time to find what worked for her. Her practices consist of throwing, built in with conditioning, which allows her to build strength to pitch a full seven innings and sometimes 14 during a doubleheader.
Rauch had to find ways to work around the issues that came with her throwing routine, and she finally unlocked her secret to success.
“A big thing for me is sticking to what works,” Rauch said. “I was really worried about going into college and my whole motion changing. I am the type of person when it comes to pitching, I don't throw mechanically correct. I wear a sleeve on my elbow every game because I have so much brush contact that it is not normal.”
It was a no-brainer for Rauch to follow her coaching staff from Fordham University to Villanova after her freshman year since they instilled complete confidence into her when she was on the mound.
“(My coaches) are very laid back, but they are the type of coaching staff that when you are getting stuff done, they give you that room that is really important,” Rauch said. “They are not consistently on you, as long as you are winning. I love having a coaching staff that pushes you to be your best and even when you are (at that level), they are expecting more.”
Rauch attributes her success to her catchers as well. In her four years of college, she never had one consistent catcher until this year. Sophomore Ally Jones has had Rauch’s back through every tough moment.
“I get very high-paced, kind of anxious when I'm throwing, especially in high pressure situations,” Rauch said. “I think every huddle Ally and I have together on the mound is like, 'you and me, breathe, control what you can control, bounce back from the unexpected.' I would say my catchers and I have one of the strongest relationships on the team.”
In addition to her successful pitching career, Rauch has added tying Villanova’s home run record to her impressive resume. She is now even in the Villanova record book with Meghan Morese (2007-10) and has five multi-home run games in a Wildcats uniform. She has compiled 50 total home runs during her college career.
“We are a big home run team and I think that is why it is almost that much better. We focus on how many home runs we can hit,” Rauch said. “We strive to be NCAA leaders in home runs per game. So just to have that career record makes it that much better.”
Rauch takes her hitting mechanics very seriously, which translates into helping her pitching arm rest.
“Going into my freshman year, I was very armsy. I didn't know how to use my legs as much,” Rauch said. “That was one thing I have really focused on throughout college, using my legs and not just using my arms. That saves me for (pitching), too. My arms don’t get as tired.”
With the help of Rauch, Villanova is looking to win the Big East championship for the first time in program history this season. With five freshmen on the roster, Rauch is using this season and her extra senior season next year to set up the underclassmen with a winning mentality.
“Right now, it is important to focus on winning because we have been facing a lot of injuries. It took us a while to figure out our team,” Rauch said. “I think it is important to make the freshmen feel like they have experience even though they don't. The more experienced teams tend to do better. Myself and the other seniors, I think we do a really good job trying to get them in the mindset that they have been here before and they can do this.”