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Tech's Tincher running out of goals

She has no-hit the Olympic softball team, but isn't on it. And she'd like to get out of the NCAA regionals, too.

Just before heading to Virginia Tech to begin her college years, Angela Tincher remembers her travel softball coach making her write down five long-range goals.

Tincher didn't have any problems with it. She doesn't recall exactly what she wrote, but she remembers having a few of the goals ready to go before she even sat down with pen and paper.

"I remember I wrote 'set some Virginia Tech records' or something like that," Tincher said. "It was something along the lines of being one of the better pitchers to play at Tech, and there was another one where I said I wanted to be one of the better pitchers in the ACC or something like that. I just remember thinking, 'Is coach going to laugh at me when he read this?' "

Nobody is laughing now. Just ask the U.S. Olympic softball team.

Every now and then the last few months, Tincher has had to go back and check the box score — just a little reminder that she did pitch a no-hit shutout victory in March against the U.S. Olympic team.

"It's still kind of unreal that it happened," Tincher said. "It doesn't seem real."

In truth, the same could be said for her entire college career.

Barely recruited out of Group A James River High in Buchanan, Tincher has gone on to achieve what obviously few college recruiters thought possible.

Tincher, who calls tiny Eagle Rock home, will leave Tech with more than 2,000 strikeouts, making her one of only three pitchers in any level of NCAA softball to reach that number. She's destined to be a three-team All-American and ACC Pitcher of the Year.

She will own every significant school career pitching record, including strikeouts (2,002 right now), lowest ERA (0.77 right now), wins (sitting at 115, also an ACC record), saves (currently has 11), shutouts (currently at 49), complete games (currently at 113), starts (currently at 138), appearances (currently at 174), innings pitched (currently at 1,035).

On Thursday, she'll lead Tech (41-15) into the ACC tournament, where the Hokies will be the No. 2 seed behind North Carolina. Tech will be looking to defend the ACC tournament championship, and solidify its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth.

Tincher will use the same arsenal of pitches that has gotten her this far: Rise ball, drop ball, curveball and change-up. Her rise ball and drop ball have the most surprising amount of movement.

"Even if I tell her exactly where I want it, I know it's going to have movement or it's going to do something," said Tech catcher Kelsey Hoffman, who has been Tincher's roommate for three years. "The advantage we have is that we're usually on the same page. That just comes from playing together as long as we have. If I call something, I know she's not afraid to shake it off if she's not comfortable, but we rarely have any problems."

Before Tincher, who is 30-6 this season with a 0.56 ERA, 532 strikeouts, 26 complete games and 12 shutouts, Tech had never earned a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Tech has gone 1-2 in each of its three NCAA regional appearances, failing to advance each time.

"We obviously want to win the ACC again, but we really want to get out of regionals," Tincher said. "I feel like we can really be in Oklahoma City (site of NCAA softball championships). It takes playing amazing all the way through the tournament, but it's not such a small possibility as we thought at first."

Tincher is something of an authority of making good on long odds. In high school, she finished with 47 wins, more than 900 strikeouts and 23 no-hitters and helped lead James River to two state championships.

Extraordinary numbers, sure, but many recruiters seemed to question whether she could produce results even close to her high school numbers at the college level. She only had one year of top level spring and summer travel experience in high school. Tech was the only major Division I program to offer her a scholarship — and the offer paid just half of her freshman tuition and board.

"It was just a fact that if you looked at her numbers up until that point, there was no denying what she had done," Tech coach Scot Thomas said. "You had a pretty good idea she was going to be competitive (in college). Now, there was no way anybody could've known she was going to be what she is, but I think we were at least smart enough to recognize she was a Division I talent."

The 50 percent scholarship became a full scholarship before the start of her sophomore season. Despite showing the possibility of greatness in her freshman season, it would have been hard to imagine Tincher embarrassing the U.S. Olympic team the way she did in February.

"I'm sure a lot of people think 'Well, she's not in the Pac-10, so she can't be that good'" Tincher said. "I was kind of glad to (pitch the no-hitter) and maybe get a little credibility."

Then again, it wasn't Tincher's first go-round with the U.S. Olympic team.

Two months before she started at Tech in 2004, she played another exhibition against the U.S. Olympic team as a member of the Salem All-Stars. She pitched an inning, striking out Stacey Nuveman (on three pitches) and Tairia Mims Flowers and giving up a home run to Jenny Topping.

Tincher also trained with USA Softball last summer and was invited to participate in an Olympic tryout camp last September. She didn't make the team.

"I thought there was at least a little bit of a chance I could make the team if I pitched just absolutely amazing," Tincher said. "I wish I would've been maybe just a little less nervous, but it's the Olympic tryouts. I had some good innings and I had some bad innings. ... I wish I would've pitched a little better because I needed to stand out."

Her standout moment came when struck out 10 batters against the U.S. Olympic team and had just one walk — the only blemish standing in the way of a perfect game.

"I think her not making (the Olympic team) might have given her an extra edge that day," said Natasha Watley, a shortstop for the U.S. Olympic team who went 0-for-3 and struck out twice against Tincher. "Going into that game, we knew that. We knew we were going to be facing a pitcher that didn't make the team and probably thought she belonged with us."

Unfortunately, Tincher may not have another chance to make the Olympics. Softball won't be a part of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. So, Tincher has started to look at life beyond softball.

She'll play for the Akron Racers this summer in the National Pro Fastpitch League. After that season, she'll return to Tech where she will pursue her MBA. As far as not being able to compete in the Olympics is concerned, it's bittersweet for Tincher.

"I'd be just as happy playing on the national team if they didn't have the Olympics," Tincher said. "We've still got the World Cup to play in, but the Olympics are what you grow up wanting to do as a softball player. For the Olympics to be a possibility, and then to possibly be on the team and not have the Olympics, it's kind of weird. I'm happy with what I've accomplished, but (the Olympics) would've been nice."

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