The Georgia softball team will be looking for its first SEC tournament title since 2014 when the tournament begins Tuesday, May 9 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Pitcher Riley Orcutt had a big postseason moment last year, when she pitched two shutout innings in an NCAA regional. Here, Orcutt revisits that highlight and talks about her family’s rich sports history and what excites her about the upcoming tournament.
(This interview has been edited for clarity.)
Q: College athletics runs in your family. Who else in your family played college sports and where did they play?
A: My dad played water polo at Fresno State. My aunt swam at Ohio State before transferring to South Carolina. She also competed in Olympic trials, so swimming was very big in my family. My grandpa played a couple sports at Wisconsin. I believe it was tennis and basketball.”
Q: Did any of those schools influence your decision on where to play?
A: Honestly, not really, I was kind of just trying to get out of California to experience somewhere else. That’s pretty much all I’ve known. I wanted a change. I wanted to experience different seasons, different weather and get a new experience.
Q: Being a California native, why did you decide on UGA and Athens?
A: I just stepped on the campus and I felt at home. I went to a football game and it was amazing. I grew up going to UCLA games where my mom went to school, so It was a big change. There’s absolutely nothing like SEC football and Georgia games.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received from a family member on college athletics?
A: My dad says all the time to put your best into everything no matter what. If you’re not on the field, put your best into whatever you’re doing that day. If your role is just cheering on the sideline or trying to pick up your teammates, put your best into whatever role you’re playing.
Q: You were a great two-sport athlete in high school. How have you seen your volleyball experience benefit you in softball?
A: They are honestly such different sports, it’s hard to make a correlation. But I would say the teamwork and leadership aspect. I was a leader on my team, because I was older. I could help the freshmen, which is similar to my role on the team now. I try to be a leader and help my teammates wherever I see fit.
Q: What is the most significant accomplishment you’ve had in your college career so far?
A: It sounds weird, but throwing 70 miles per hour in a game. It had always been my goal to throw 70. When I accomplished that on the field, my teammates all swarmed me, and it was a big thing. It was one of my best memories. Also, going to the World Series my freshman year was a dream come true. That experience still gives me chills to this day.
Q: Going back to your postseason win last year against UMBC in the NCAA regionals, what was that game and that moment like for you?
A: It’s the peak of my softball career so far. I watch the video of me pitching that game all the time, and my dad will send clips to me. We just like to look back at that moment. It was great to share that with my teammates in such a big moment and big game. It was great that my coach had the faith in me to put me in without playing a lot of innings before that. It was one of the best moments of my life. My family was able to watch from home and everyone was texting me after the game. It was just awesome.
Q: What part of your game do you believe has grown the most in your time at UGA?
A: I’ve grown less anxious and more excited now. I’m excited to just go out there and have fun. I felt like before I put so much pressure on myself to go out there and do well. Now, I’m just excited to be here and be a part of the team.
Q: What has been the most challenging obstacle to overcome in your college career?
A: I would say dealing with missing my family and being homesick. Honestly, it’s gotten better over time because this team has become my second family and my best friends. (Coach) Tony (Baldwin) has been a second dad, basically. Missing home has been hard, but my parents moved out here for this season so they could be close enough to come to games. It was really tough seeing everyone else here with their parents and families my freshman and sophomore year.
Q: You recently joined the UGA Diversion, Equity and Inclusion committee. What are you currently working on with the committee?
A: It’s very important to me because I believe there are so many avenues of diversity, equity and inclusion that are beyond just race and gender. What we are working on right now is trying to get different perspectives and more knowledge on each topic out there. …We just want everyone to feel included here no matter what.
Q: What do you believe your personal role is in helping the team continue success into this postseason?
A: Personally, just being the best at what I do. I’m a very loud person. I’m loud in the dugout and cheering on my teammates. I love being a positive voice, comforting teammates when they’re down, or just giving someone a high five to brighten their day. That’s the role I see myself in. I love that role. I would play that role every single day. I think that’s the best way I can contribute to my teammates.
Jackson Rowland is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.