May 10, 2003
by Michelle Smith,
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
It's no secret to anyone who knows even a little about college softball that a good pitcher can play a huge role in the success of her team.
But what Jaime Forman-Lau is doing is unprecedented -- at least when it comes to the success part at Santa Clara.
Forman-Lau, a junior transfer from Stanford, has led the Broncos to the best season in the 25-year history of the program. The Broncos (30-25) have already set a new standard for wins in a single season, besting the 1986 club's 26, and now await Sunday's NCAA selections to see whether they will make their first-ever appearance in the postseason.
"This program obviously has a struggling history, but it's come such a long way in the past few years," said Forman-Lau, who is 21-14 with a 1.32 ERA in 38 appearances and threw the first perfect game in school history last month.
"I feel like I'm coming in just as it's starting to show what it can be," she said. "It's a great opportunity for me to help bring it that last little way and make the postseason."
Santa Clara has positioned itself for an NCAA bid after posting a 12-6 mark in the inaugural season of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. The Broncos finished second in the conference, missing a chance at the title Tuesday with pair of losses in a doubleheader at St. Mary's. The PCSC, however, does not have an automatic bid for its conference champion.
But Broncos coach Marcy Crouch hopes that the NCAA field, which has expanded from 48 to 64 teams this year, has room for her upstart team, which can offer its players only partial scholarships and plays its games at a city park.
"My hope is to bring this program to a consistent postseason contender, and this is a good start," Crouch said. "I do know that we've played a tough schedule and we have a lot of losses, but those losses are to teams like Washington, Stanford and Cal. We have beaten UOP and Fresno State and Hawaii and those teams should get in."
Crouch, who pitched at Stanford from 1996-99, took over the Santa Clara job in 2000, and her team posted an 11-40 record. This season, she is fielding a young team with three freshmen among the top-five hitters in her lineup. Crouch said a player the caliber of Forman-Lau should be a lure to other talented players.
"She's been absolutely great for us," Crouch said. "As a transfer, she was kind of an odd get, but sometimes those are the players that can turn a program around."
Forman-Lau, a product of Archbishop Mitty High in San Jose, began her collegiate career at Stanford in 2000. She made three starts and 25 appearances for the Cardinal in 2001, but said she wasn't happy. She left the team, but remained in school and accelerated her studies, earning her undergraduate degree in 3 1/2 years.
She was ready to give up college softball and prepared to begin graduate school at Stanford when the opportunity to try again came along last fall.
"I was working at a pitching school with one of the Santa Clara players and she told (Crouch) that I had been throwing to my dad and keeping in shape," Forman-Lau said. "She called me and told me I should get my release from Stanford. It wasn't really a hard sell. I was really excited to play again."