Thursday, April 4, 2013 | midnight
This is a new weekly feature where we’ll have a Q&A session with someone either involved in or working with UNLV Athletics. Part informational, part nonsense, we want to get to know the Rebels.
California has long been a hotbed for softball talent, making UNLV junior pitcher Amanda Oliveto unique in her skill set, if not her background.
A Simi Valley, Calif., native, Oliveto is one of 13 Californians on the Rebels’ roster of 18 players, but she’s the only one with four career no-hitters, the most recent coming against the University of Massachusetts on March 17. In fact, only Lori Harrigan, another Californian, has more no-hitters in UNLV history. Harrigan finished her career with six and then went on to win three Olympic gold medals with the U.S. national team (1996, 2000, 2004), including throwing a no-hitter in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
With softball no longer in the Olympics, Oliveto would have a hard time following those footsteps. However, she can help control how the rest of this season goes for UNLV (14-21), which has a key six-game homestand over the next two weeks.
The Rebels are coming off a three-game sweep at Colorado State that saw Oliveto get roughed up in the last two games. Still, she’s confident both she and the team can bounce back against Fresno State, starting Friday night at 6. After all, she doesn’t know how to do anything but keep going back to the diamond.
“I’ve been playing since I was 4, and I haven’t stopped,” Oliveto said.
We caught up with the junior hurler after Tuesday’s practice to discuss, among other things, no-hitter etiquette and getting robbed of a talent show championship:
This interview was edited for content and clarity
What’s a comparable feeling to completing a no-hitter?
It would probably be compared to, school-wise, getting a 4.0.
Have you done that?
No. I think I might do it this semester though.
How many no-hitters do you have lifetime? Any perfect games?
I’ve had one perfect game in my life, and that’s a miracle because I walk a lot of batters. I don’t really keep track of no-hitters, so I’m sure I’ve had a couple more, but I’m not sure how many.
Do you believe in all the superstitions about no-hitters, like no one’s supposed to talk to you about it?
Definitely. Even on one weekend during a tournament, a pitcher from Cal was throwing a no-hitter and then our coach said, "She’s throwing a no-hitter." I’m like, "You can’t do that." I completely respect anybody who can throw one. I’m a pitcher, they’re a pitcher; we’re all kind of in some way rooting for each other. It’s a great accomplishment for any pitcher to get, so I would never want to jinx somebody or speak up and make them lose it.
How important is it to have some success on this six-game homestand before heading back on the road?
It’s really big. We just came off a tough weekend; we got swept. I think our team needs a little bit of confidence here. We’re doing all the little things right, we’re right there. We’re almost connecting all the aspects of the game — pitching, defense, hitting. We’re right there, so I think if we just keep going out and doing what we’ve been showing in practice it will happen for us.
Were you guys in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee talent show on Monday?
Yes, we won. Well, we were co-first place with baseball. They let the crowd decide and there were more women in the crowd, so baseball won, even though everyone I talked to said we were clearly better. We made up our own dance to several different songs. We were good. (You can watch the whole thing here and judge for yourself. Softball starts at about the 24:30 mark.)
What was your reaction when softball was removed from the Olympics after the 2008 games?
I was disappointed. I know it’s unrealistic to think, like a lot of girls do, “Oh, I want to grow up and be on the national team and then I can play in the Olympics.” I know it’s unrealistic for me to think that way, but it’s really awesome getting to see this sport compete at that level. All the women you look up to, like all of our coaches played on the national team at some point. It sucks. I know part of the reason it was taken out was that the U.S. won every year. But, come on. I’m definitely hoping they bring it back because a lot of people like to watch that. There are some events that you’re like, “How is that still in there?”
What hobby or skill would most people be surprised to find out you possess?
I can roll my eyes around in my head.
Like The Undertaker?
Like, they can just spin around. I can look at somebody to the right with one eye and off to the left with the other. My teammates love it. They’re always asking me to do it. It kind of freaks them out, but they’re also fascinated with it.
Do you guys have songs and chants you perform from the dugout during games?
We actually do a cappella a lot. Not necessarily during the game, but at practice we’re constantly singing. We’re definitely a singing group. It helps relax us.
Any favorite tunes?
We love “Pitch Perfect,” so we sing a lot of songs from that movie.
What’s your go-to order at Capriotti’s?
Italian. I like just the meat and cheese on my sandwich, and a little lettuce, but I don’t do the works or anything. I like my sandwiches plain. I don’t get any dressing. I like it dry. I eat my salads dry, too. People think it’s weird.
“Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire” or “Mad Men”?
None. I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV, so mainly the hours that I’m watching TV are at night so I usually watch “Friends” on Nickelodeon or old cartoons like “Hey Arnold.” I’m very much a kid at heart, so I love like the old Disney shows. I’m a Disney freak. “Beauty and the Beast” is my favorite.
Tupac or Biggie?
I don’t know either of them that well. I’ll say Lil Wayne.