When Gina Snyder learned she was making her season debut against the No. 2 team in the world, she was running high with one emotion.
It wasn’t fear.
“I was excited,” she said.
The redshirt senior had been waiting — and working — for a moment like that, and she could not have seized it any better. Snyder proceeded to toss a four-hit shutout in an exhibition against Team Japan last Saturday, a squad that had been 10-0 on its collegiate tour.
“It was awesome,” Snyder said. “It’s pretty much everything I’ve been working towards. ... I definitely was on Cloud Nine the whole game.”
Though it was hard to tell. Snyder was stoic when manning the circle, locked in from her very first toss. She always is because she does not get many opportunities to pitch.
Saturday was just her fourth appearance in two seasons with the Arizona Wildcats.
“Every time she gets on the mound, she takes a deep breath,” said junior catcher Dejah Mulipola. “She knows how big it is for her to get that one chance. She doesn’t get very many pitching opportunities, so for her to take advantage of it was (great).”
Head coach Mike Candrea felt the exhibition was an ideal time to throw Snyder into the fire. She could measure up against an elite team without the usual pressure of wins and losses.
A test, Candrea called it. One the right-hander passed with flying colors.
“She threw a heck of a ballgame,” Candrea said. “Japan is not known for their hitting, they’re a team that relies on solid defense and good pitching, but she did a heck of a job. And for someone that has been biting at the bit to get an opportunity, to be ready when that opportunity was given to her, I’m very, very happy for her.”
Snyder is easy to root for. The Tucson native and Sahuaro High product walked on to Arizona’s roster in 2018 after her time at Purdue was cut short by a debilitating illness that threatened her life and put her softball career in serious doubt.
Now two years removed from that, Snyder can confidently say she has overcome it and hopes to be a role model for other players battling adversity.
“I think I’m more comfortable with myself,” she said. “Having a whole year under my belt with this team and working with Coach (Taryne Mowatt), everything is just kind of clicking.”
And when Snyder is clicking, hitters have a hard time digging into the box.
“She’s very unique,” said Mulipola, who also catches for the USA National Team. “She has a lot of movement on her ball. Facing her in live scrimmages, she is very scary because she has a backdoor curve that looks like it’s gonna hit you, but it comes back in for a strike. She’s very effective.
“To accommodate her backdoor curve, she has this screwball that comes in 70 miles per hour. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s a great pitch.”
It could be a while before Snyder gets to showcase it again. Arizona has six pitchers on its staff and Snyder is low in the pecking order, perhaps even at the very bottom, evidenced by the fact she was the last hurler to debut this season.
While that could be frustrating for some, it isn’t for her.
“I would say no it’s not because I know that we have six quality pitchers,” she said, adding that her goal in her senior season is to win a national championship.
“If anything, (my performance) proved that we have depth. And I can go to (the other pitchers) for anything. (Ace) Taylor (McQuillin) is one of my best friends.”
The soft-spoken Snyder garnered attention from several reporters before Tuesday’s practice, but said her breakout game won’t change her. She said she will stay humble, continue to hone her craft and prepare herself for her next outing, whenever that may be.
“That is definitely a strong attribute of hers,” Candrea said. “She could have gone either way. She could have been feeling sorry for herself and not put in the quality work, but she kept putting in the quality work. Gina wants it very badly and she’s gone through a lot to get to this point, and I was just glad that she had a productive outing and hopefully that will be a launching pad for her for the rest of the year.”