Through all the ups and downs of the 2008 UCSB softball season, there is one individual on the team who has been quietly writing her name in the record book.
Senior third baseman Tisha Duran made history on Sunday by becoming the only Gaucho to ever hit 13 homeruns in one season. In addition to the homerun record, Duran also achieved the single-season RBI record on Saturday and now has 48 runs driven in which is four more than Jami Trinidad’s 44 set in 2004. Persevering through a hearing disability, Duran has become one of the most dangerous cleanup hitters in the Big West and despite all her success, she remains extremely humble.
“What helped me break [the records] was my team,” Duran said. “Breaking the RBI [record], they helped me out a lot by getting on base and my goal was to bring them home. … I want the best for my team.”
UCSB was in desperate need of a spark after losing two games to #14 Long Beach State (33-12 overall, 9-3 Big West) this past Saturday. Then, to lead off the second inning of Sunday’s series finale, Duran smacked a 1-1 pitch from freshman Brooke Turner, one of the nation’s best hurlers, deep to left field and over the fence. Duran smiled as she rounded the bases to a huge ovation from the entire crowd. Campus Diamond was definitely the loudest it had been in a long time.
“It made me feel special,” Duran said. “I’m really grateful for my family to be here and share it with me.”
And at home plate waited 19 teammates who immediately jumped on the third baseman they all cherish so dearly.
“Actually, I told her before the game today, I said, ‘I respect you so much just for everything you’ve overcome and how good you are,'” senior catcher Ericka Hansen said. “She’s just such an inspiration to everyone out here on the field. Just watching her and how she plays, she’s such an awesome player.”
Duran originally transferred to UC Santa Barbara from Ventura College after graduating in 2005. As a Pirate, she earned a whole host of honors including Freshman of the Year, team MVP, First Team All-State, Western State Conference Player of the Year and Ventura County Player of the Year.
Spring-boarding from community college into UCSB’s starting lineup, Duran led the squad with 11 doubles and 33 RBI, eventually resulting in a 2007 All-Big West First Team selection. She was a regular starter and posted a .327 batting average good enough for second on team. At one point, she enjoyed a nine-game hit streak, which included five multi-hit and three multi-RBI games. Despite having a stellar first year in a Gaucho uniform, Duran took it upon herself to improve during the off-season and it has certainly shown this year.
“The difference is I know how to focus and relax,” Duran said. “Last year, it was very frustrating because I wanted to bring my teammates home and this year I learned a lot from Coach Brie [Galicinao]. She helped me so much to relax and I mean I couldn’t do this by myself; it’s the team.”
The Ventura, Ca. native opened 2008 with a six-game hit streak and would go on to reach base safely in 17 of UCSB’s first 18 games. Besides leading the team in numerous offensive categories this season, Duran currently paces the Big West conference in RBIs, runs scored and homeruns to further illustrate the strong year she has had. In addition, while covering the “hot corner” on defense, Duran has committed just four errors and maintains a .965 fielding percentage.
“I’m really happy for her,” Galicinao said. “She’s been a real treat just to be able to work with and she has such a great attitude out there. It’s funny because there could be a ball that’s like 10 feet over her head and she’s complaining, ‘I need to be taller!’ or ‘I should have had that!’ No matter what the challenge is, she always wants to be better. I mean she could be three- for-four and be complaining that she didn’t get a fourth hit. She wants a lot from herself in order to help the team. She’s very team-oriented.”
In the year and a half that Duran has been in Santa Barbara, it seems only fitting that thus far her most memorable moment is of a time when she supported a teammate. In San Luis Obispo last season, former shortstop Brittany Putich suffered a hand injury and Duran rose to the occasion both on and off the field.
“My favorite memory was against Cal Poly when [Putich] broke her hand and I had to help her out,” Duran said. “We played as a team for the first time and we brought each other up every day.”
Duran’s selfless attitude with her teammates obviously goes beyond driving them home when they’re stranded on second base and they are quick to acknowledge her genuine kindness in less competitive situations.
“She’s just the sweetest person,” Hansen said. “She always wants to do something to help someone else. It’s like opening a door or helping someone out; just always thinking about someone else in front herself.”
With 12 Big West games in the books and nine remaining, what does the future hold for Ms. Duran? According to junior second baseman Christine Ramos, her teammate’s historic senior season is far from over.
“She’s amazing,” Ramos said. “Ask anyone on our team, I think her having a disability and being able to do what she does, it’s amazing. We have nine games left and I don’t think she’s going to stop. The record is not going to be anything when she’s done. I’m excited to see it.”
In less than two full seasons, Duran has not only moved into seventh on the career homerun list (16), but she has also tied fifth-place Mandy Edwards for career RBI with 81. More accolades may be in order for the senior this year, but no matter what, Duran will always have one thing on her mind: the team.
“I just want to be remembered as a team-player,” Duran said. “I’m like a cog; one of the cogs in the machine that helps it keep going. I love my teammates every day. I really don’t care about the record. I mean it’s a big deal, but playing with these girls, it means a lot to me.”