Two days after pitching a masterpiece to lead Carlmont to a Central Coast Section Division I crown, Rebecca Faulkner was right back in the circle with her travel team the San Jose Sting. That’s pretty much a day in the life for the left-handed ace who recently graduated Carlmont after a prestigious four-year varsity career.
Faulkner did it all in her senior year with Carlmont. With the bat, she tabbed a .424 batting average while pacing the squad in hits (42) and RBIs (40). With her arm, she chiseled a 19-1 record, including her first career perfect game against Burlingame on April 10 and a brilliant three-hitter against San Benito May 31 in the CCS championship game.
Beyond the numbers, there was no more dominant force on a CCS softball diamond this season than Faulkner. It’s for this reason she has been named the San Mateo Daily Journal Softball Player of the Year.
“Rebecca is certainly one of our top pitchers of all time,” Carlmont head coach Jim Liggett said. “We’ve had some really good ones. … Also, she hits very well. She was probably our most dangerous hitter.”
What makes Faulkner’s pitching unique is she does not concern herself with strikeouts. She employs an aggressive strategy of pitching to contact and is a master of taking the swing out of opposing batters’ swings.
Growing up around the game of baseball, Faulkner relied heavily on talking pitching with her older brother Josh. Perhaps the baseball approach is what differentiates her from the great strikeout queens throughout softball history such as Lisa Fernandez and Jennie Finch. Even throughout Carlmont’s storied history, the top pitchers — Tori Nyberg, Ashley Chinn, Monique Castillo, Jerrica Castagno and Deanna Earsley — were reliant on throwing the ball by hitters.
Not the case with Faulkner, who unlike the aforementioned Scots greats never struck out more than 200 batters in a season.
“I don’t really look for the strikeout,” Faulkner said. “I have a lot of players behind me, and on Carlmont we had so many good players. I knew that if [batters] hit it, they’re going to feel it. So that was nice to have, because I didn’t feel like it was all on me. I had such a great support system, so it was easy.”
Carlmont had a core of seniors who were destined to leave a championship legacy. Faulkner was one of three Scots seniors to make the varsity team as a freshman. And she made the cut after two weeks of a nose-to-the-grindstone effort which became her calling card throughout her prep career. Yet she was sincerely shocked to see her name on the casting list for the 2011 Scots.
“I was shocked,” Faulkner said. “[Liggett] had said that if I kept working hard that I’d definitely have an opportunity to be on varsity, so I’d always give a hundred percent. Even if the coaches weren’t watching I’d make sure I’d be doing what I’m supposed to do because I just really wanted to get the opportunity to play.”
Faulkner didn’t have an immediate impact on the varsity diamond though. In fact, during her freshman season, she platooned with two other starting pitchers — Aurora Stottler and Danielle Giuliacci.
“She was pretty good as a freshman,” Liggett said. “But it wasn’t until her junior year when she became the No. 1 pitcher and took over most of the pitching duties and really started achieving what we saw her achieve at the end of this year. And her 23-1 (record as a junior) was a pretty good standard there.”
Indeed, Faulkner had a solid sophomore campaign in which she shared the team lead in wins (10) with Giuliacci. However, at the outset of 2013, Giuliacci decided to quit pitching and focus on playing center field. It proved a major departure from Faulkner’s routine after she and Giuliacci grew up together, first having pitched for the same team as 8-year-olds with the Belmont Blast All-Star team. They continued to work as a pitching tandem which eventually saw them dubbed the dynamic duo — a nickname that followed them all the way through high school.
But after Giuliacci converted to center field fulltime, Faulkner saw the biggest single-season workload of her career as a junior. She responded big time, posting a 23-win season en route to winning her first of two Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division Player of the Year awards.
“It was a lot of work,” Faulkner said. “Looking back at it, I’m pretty shocked at how I did it. Realizing how much I pitched this year, I pitched even more the year before. … I pitched a lot. But it was definitely a learning experience to go through that, knowing you’re going to be pitching every game, you have to make sure you’re on it every game.”
Being on it every game was something Faulkner did for the remainder of her high school career, only losing twice over her final two seasons. Throughout her senior season, she returned to sharing time as a starting pitcher with junior Mariko Kondo. And while Faulkner is committed to play at UC Riverside next season, she aspires to continue doing what she did so well, for so long, at Carlmont. While she said she isn’t taking anything for granted, she hopes to continue as a two-way player. She is also content to continue sharing time in the circle, as Riverside will return right-handed pitcher Alyssa Razo for her senior season in 2015. Faulkner said she also expects another freshman arm to be added to the mix.
Whatever the future holds, no one can take away the season of destiny of the 2014 CCS champion Scots. However, amid the Carlmont championship celebration at San Jose’s PAL Stadium was a noticeable, but understandable melancholy.
“I think that those tears you saw at the end was an accumulation of a lot of hard work and effort all that coming to fruition,” Liggett said. “They worked hard for it. They achieved it. And the emotional release was really great. I think there were other things going on too. We had seven captains. They were close and they knew the end of an era was here for them, that this would be the end of their playing together.”