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The best there is

Senior Angela Tincher is much more than the nation's best college softball pitcher. She's also a consummate student-athlete.

There's little argument that senior pitcher Angela Tincher is Virginia Tech's best softball player ever and one of the greatest in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history.

Her numbers speak for themselves. Tincher is just the third player in NCAA history to notch 2,000 career strikeouts — a feat equaled by Texas' Cat Osterman and Tennessee's Monica Abbott, both current members of the U.S. Olympic Team. Tincher also ranks second all-time in strikeout ratio, averaging more than 13.5 strikeouts per game, or almost two per inning. And not only was she the first All-American in Hokies history, she's poised to earn that honor for the third time this year.

    Interview at Olympic Team game

Yet for all of her success, Tincher is much more than a stereotypical jock. She carries a 3.8 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) in finance and will graduate in May 2008 summa cum laude. She’s a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society for college students, and is the recipient of the Pamplin College of Business Department of Finance service award for 2008.

And as a soon-to-be-named Academic All-American for the third time, you see why she’s the definition of a true student-athlete.

Playing for love of the game

With the first pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball draft, the Tampa Bay Rays selected star left-handed pitcher David Price out of Vanderbilt and eventually signed him to a contract that included a $5.6 million signing bonus.

    Angela Tincher pitching from the mound

Earlier this year at the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch draft, the Akron Racers selected Tincher, the All-American pitcher from Virginia Tech who led the nation in earned-run average (ERA) last season and is considered by many to be the top pitcher in the NCAA this year. While she can't sign a pro contract until her NCAA eligibility is up following this year, there won't be any signing bonuses in the millions for the native of Eagle Rock, Va.

Welcome to the world of fast pitch softball. While it's one of the fastest-growing NCAA women's sports, the pro league is more of a chance for the members of the association to play the game they love in the summer. It's not a full-time job.

This year, several league members will be absent, including stars Jennie Finch and Osterman, as they will be representing the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This will be the last opportunity for many of these women to play in the Olympics, as softball was removed from the 2012 Olympic Games. The sport is fighting to be re-included for 2016, but by then, many of the current starring players will be past their prime.  They're playing now strictly for love of the game.

Suffice to say, Tincher could make a lot more money using her degree from Virginia Tech as a CPA than as the top pitcher in the NPF. But Tincher loves softball.

She's been playing since the age of 10 when her father, Denny, began teaching her by throwing at a blanket hung in their basement. Over and over she would work on her mechanics. Speed would come, he would say, but the mechanics had to be right. Years of practice with her dad, and during her high school and college years, have helped Tincher develop a drop ball, a curve, a change-up, and what's widely regarded as one of the best rise balls in the game.

The game of her life

For all the records and accolades Tincher has earned, the biggest win in her career is one that doesn’t even count in the NCAA record book.

On March 26, Tincher and the Hokies flew to Oklahoma City, Okla., to take on the U.S. National Team in an exhibition game at Hall of Fame Stadium. No one gave the Hokies a chance; in fact, keeping it close and playing all seven innings were primary goals.

   

VT Softball Team celebrates a victory over the U.S. Olympic Team VT Softball Team celebrates a victory over the U.S. Olympic Team

This was the best softball team in the world the Hokies would be facing. Winners of three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the team had won 185 straight pre-Olympic exhibition games, and Tech was in line to be No. 186.

But thanks to a few timely hits and an improbable no-hitter from Tincher, Tech stunned the Olympians 1-0, leaving the best team in the world shaking its heads and congratulating the Hokies for accomplishing the unthinkable.

Taking a chance

Even when breaking records at James River High School, Tincher was hardly seen as a blue-chip recruit by college coaches. Many wondered if the lanky girl who played in Virginia's lowest classification of softball could cut it at the next level. One school said she wasn't a college level pitcher when they saw her recruiting video. Division II schools inquired. Roanoke College, a local Division III school, seemed like a possibility.

But Virginia Tech head coach Scot Thomas took a chance on the local product, offering her a scholarship to come suit up in Blacksburg.

A shaky fall season her freshman year did little to squash those concerns. But look at her four years later. She's won 115 games for her career heading into the 2008 postseason and is a finalist for numerous national awards.

Tincher is sought after to give lessons. She is asked for autographs by girls ... and their parents. She is the first one requested by media members for a quote. And she was the highest-drafted female athlete in school history.

She has rewritten the school, conference and NCAA record books with dozens of marks likely to stand for a long time.

   

Angela Tincher stands in front of the 1-0 scoreboard Angela Tincher stands in front of the 1-0 scoreboard after the Virginia Tech Softball Team's victory over the U.S. Olympic Team.

And while this may be her last season in a Hokie uniform, Tincher has expressed interest in coaching, and would love to stay at Tech. She has been admitted to Pamplin's graduate program and hopes to be a graduate assistant coach for the Hokies while pursuing a Master's degree in business administration (MBA) over the next two years. She could have gone to any school and helped tutor pitchers at perennial powers while picking up another degree, but Tech is where her heart is.

So while she'll be suiting up this summer for a pro team, she'll hopefully be back next fall. And while she won’t be able to play softball forever, the memories and experiences she’ll take from her time at Tech, both in the classroom and on the diamond, will always be there for her.

Multimedia

Angela Tincher Podcast

Softball pitcher Angela Tincher is interviewed about her academic and softball career at Virginia Tech. Length: 08:41

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