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McCorkle leaves with PBC record
By Mark Schulman
Braves’ softball pitcher Nicole McCorkle stood on the mound with a single goal for the next pitch.
The right-handed pitcher eyed the catcher’s mitt in the strike zone where her next fastpitch was to land after sailing past the batter, earning her the new Peach Belt Conference record with 341 strikeouts in a single season. The sun gleamed onto UNCP’s softball field where the Lady Braves hosted a conference match against the Armstrong Atlantic State Pirates.
The previous record holder, in a twist of fate, was sitting in the Pirates’ dugout as their star pitcher. The spectators looked on as McCorkle wound up for the pitch and launched the ball to its intended target, the catcher’s mitt.
The record was now hers. The crowd celebrated as the announcer congratulated the new record holder. “I was thinking the entire time that it would be an honor to achieve the strikeout record,” McCorkle said. “And I wanted to continue striking batters out.”
McCorkle, a junior at the time, added 25 more strikeouts to the record, finishing with 364 on the season. That was the 2005 season when McCorkle, who will be graduating May 6, etched her mark in PBC history. She also ranked 13th overall in strikeouts in the NCAA and pulled the team out of several possible losses as a relief pitcher, finishing in third place in saves in the NCAA.
Her early years She grew up in the small community of Half Moon Bay, Calif., located 20 miles south of San Francisco. She picked up the ball and bat at the age of 11 and began pitching one year later.
Half Moon Bay had various leagues where kids could play fastpitch softball. McCorkle’s talent surpassed much of her competition. As a result, there was the family decision to push her potential and play for the intensive Gold Ball League in her early teens. By the time McCorkle was 14 years old, she joined the league for 16-year-old girls.
When she was 15, she showed great promise competing with 18-year-old girls. “My parents knew I had a future in softball so I moved onto Gold Ball,” McCorkle said.
But her bright future had almost vanished the day of her tryouts for the San Jose Strikkers. She was catching a softball with her hands during warmups and the ball came down on her pitching hand, breaking the ring finger. McCorkle panicked and didn’t think she could perform and ultimately would be cut from the team.
She told her mother that she wasn’t going to make the team and felt her softball career was doomed. “It’s not broken,” McCorkle’s mother told her. “It’s only bruised. Here’s some Advil and get back out there.”
Of 36 pitchers who tried out that day for the Strikkers, McCorkle was the only one chosen for the team. After a year with the Strikkers, she was picked up by the San Jose Lady Sharks. Here she found the exposure to colleges that she needed.
They were playing at a tournament when McCorkle was approached by then UNCP coach Bill Gilbert. UNCP was not the only offer she received. West Point, Notre Dame and University of Texas-Austin all wanted McCorkle on their teams. McCorkle shunned the Division I teams to come to Pembroke.
“I didn’t want to play Division I because my whole life has been softball,” McCorkle said. “I wanted to concentrate on academics and have a social life.” McCorkle’s first season pitching at UNCP was in the spring of 2003. But from the beginning, she was plagued with an injury that would never leave.
McCorkle’s injury As a freshman, McCorkle pitched more extensively than what she was used to and, as a result, the nerves in her pitching hand began to fail.
The ulnar nerve running down her right arm and into her hand began to inflame. She was playing at a tournament in Miami when something snapped in her right hand.
McCorkle flew back to California and made an appointment with Dr. Arthur Ting. Ting is one of the area’s leading physicians in sports medicine. He currently heads the medical team for the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and is the personal physician to baseball legend Barry Bonds.
Ting recommended that McCorkle stop pitching and she was benched. The pain was unbearable the next season, her sophomore year, but she continued playing.
“When the nerve was aggravated it was like I had fish hooks dug in between my fingers and being ripped up my hand [toward the wrist,]” she said. Despite the pain, McCorkle managed to break records, including the strikeout record.
A cortisone treatment failed because it was discovered she was allergic to the shot. Her hand swelled so they had to suck out the infection, leaving her with a skinny, skeletal-looking hand.
These complications led to Positive Ulnar Deviation in the Radial Wrist where the wrist bones began to grow apart. Also, McCorkle’s most recent MRI revealed that there is now fluid surrounding the wrist bone. The only remedy for her wrist condition is for the surgeons to break apart the wrist then screw it back together. McCorkle’s decision to go into this surgery is still pending.
McCorkle was on the bench her senior year. She said attending the games and supporting her team from the bench is difficult. “I still have a competitive attitude,” McCorkle said. “Sometimes it’s hard to watch a game because I really want to get back in there.”
But being out of the game her senior year has given her more time to look for a career. McCorkle will be returning to California after receiving her mass communications degree with a concentration in public relations.
There, she hopes to land a job in marketing or public relations. The love of the game has not been lost, though. She hopes to be a pitching coach where she can teach the fundamentals to the next record- breaking fastpitcher out of California.