Every athlete has his or her own way of preparing for competition.
For some, it involves listening to classical music to calm nerves or upbeat music to pump them up. Others elect to be alone with their own thoughts, imagining a variety of scenarios in their head that will lead to success.
But Desert Vista senior captain and pitcher Jackie Traughber takes a slightly different approach before she steps up to bat for the Thunder.
“I usually sing ‘Banana Pancakes’ by Jack Johnson,” Traughber said. “It’s a nice, relaxing song that calms me down and lets me take a breath.”
Johnson’s soothing lyrics have made a positive impact on Traughber at the plate, as the Yavapai Community College commit leads the Thunder with a .543 batting average, 4 RBIs and 16 runs this season.
Traughber was placed on the varsity roster as a freshman but didn’t see much playing time. She took on a role similar to that of an understudy, watching and learning from veteran pitchers in front of her. By the time she was a sophomore, Traughber was groomed to take on a role in the starting rotation.
“All of them just really wanted to help me grow and they did that,” Traughber said. “They all took the time to talk to me and encourage me to go out there and do what is expected of us.”
Traughber knew she had to step up her game when her number was called. In her first year as one of the Thunder’s starting pitchers, she was dominant.
She went 10-6 overall with a 2.96 ERA. She had a team high 100 strike outs and 37 walks in 111.1 innings pitched. As a junior, she struck out 178 batters and walked 22 with a 2.88 ERA.
Having improved from her sophomore to junior seasons, Traughber was determined to give it her all as a senior.
In 72.2 innings pitched this season, she has a 1.99 ERA with 110 strike outs and just 14 walks.
“Jackie has really turned a corner for us this year. She’s been lights out,” Desert Vista coach Chris Crowl said. “She has that unique special characteristic that you love as a coach. She does the things that make the other girls think she cares about them.
“We are very blessed to have her.”
Traughber takes a different approach to calm her nerves when she’s on the mound. She doesn’t resort to singing a soothing song like “Banana Pancakes.” In fact, she doesn’t sing at all.
“I had a coach when I was younger that would tell me jokes before I went out to pitch. So I still do that now,” Traughber said. “I just think about funny things in my head and I’ll also talk to myself and try to stay calm. All of that just helps me breathe more.”
Traughber’s ability to stay calm even when facing adversity has transferred to the rest of the Thunder players.
On March 4 against rival Mountain Pointe, Traughber gave up a lead-off home run to Pride captain Araceli Pesqueira. Mountain Pointe added four more runs off Traughber throughout the contest, forcing Desert Vista to play from behind in an eventual 5-1 loss.
A look of frustration came across Traughber’s face after each Pride runner crossed home plate. But her teammates and coaches continued to lift her spirit.
“The positive energy from my teammates keeps me going,” she said. “We are closer than we have been in years past. I’ve always been told I’m upbeat and crazy, so I just try to give them that same energy all the time.”
At 10-7 heading into today’s match up with Corona del Sol, Desert Vista knows there is little room for error. The Thunder are ahead of Mountain Pointe by a game in the 6A Central Region standings, and are the 15th-ranked team in the conference with six games remaining in the regular season.
Through all of the adversity Desert Vista has faced this season, all the players are coming together at the right time – a positive in the mind of both Traughber and Crowl as the state tournament approaches.