Natalie Camarda is looking for respect

Natalie Camarda has a mission this season. Aside from the usual goals of winning as a team and reaching some individual aspirations, her overriding aim this spring is to earn respect.

Camarda, a junior pitcher for the softball team at The Bishop’s School, received little attention from the media entering the season and felt slighted, to say the least. She felt she deserved to receive some recognition as one of the top players in the area, and when she was largely ignored, took it upon herself to make sure that by season’s end, she could not be looked past.

So far, she is off to a stellar start toward accomplishing that goal.

A little more than midway through the season, and with the meat of the league schedule coming up, Camarda has pitched Bishop’s to one of the top spots in the Coastal League South with an 11-2 overall record and a 2-1 league mark.

Bishop’s entered the week of April 21 third in the league, trailing only Horizon Christian and Francis Parker, who were both 2-0. Camarda has been a huge part of the Knights’ success.

“Natalie carries this team on her shoulders, as she did last year,” Bishop’s coach Thomas Abeyta said. “The difference this year is that she’s more focused and has better defensive players behind her than she has in the past.”

Camarda’s numbers this season have been nothing short of staggering. Entering the week of April 21, she owned a 9-2 record with one save and a 0.83 ERA. In 76 innings pitched, she had struck out a whopping 125 batters and had walked just 23 batters. In fact, her strikeout total was just shy of double her totals for hits (40) and walks (23) allowed.

Opposing batters were hitting just .149 against Camarda, and she had yet to allow a single home run.

“She really carries the team - we rely on her even more now than ever, because we are not a great offensive power team,” Abeyta said.

That couldn’t be more true. The Knights have averaged just higher than four runs per game this season and have scored six or more runs in a game just five times this season. Still, that has mattered little, as Camarda has pitched every game and shut down the opposition nearly every time out.

The Knights opened the season with nine straight wins.

“She just overpowers hitters with her great location,” Abeyta said.

Camarda has been able to dominate opposing hitters with an arsenal that not only overpowers them but keeps them guessing all the time. Anybody can tell you that a pitcher with multiple pitches will be more effective than one with just one or two, and Camarda is a perfect example.

The junior right-hander possesses an above-average fastball, throws an excellent rise ball and mixes in a very effective changeup that keeps batters off balance. The combination of the three makes her nearly impossible to hit, especially when she is really on her game.

In a 2-0 Bishop’s win over non-league San Diego Jewish Academy on March 26, Camarda recorded 15 of her 21 outs via strikeout and allowed just three hits. Perhaps even more fulfilling for her was that she out-dueled San Diego Jewish Academy pitcher Ali Adelman, recognized as one of the top small-school pitchers in the area.

Abeyta said he saw something in Camarda during that game that went back to her feeling disrespected by not receiving the same attention as other pitchers she believed she could beat. He also saw an inner drive in her and an ability to focus on the task at hand. He said that’s what makes her special.

“She just takes control of the game,” Abeyta said. “Her focus is definitely her best attribute.”

Camarda pitches for the San Diego Renegades 18-and-under gold travel team outside of the high school season and in her travel-ball career has been to an ASA nationals tournament three times.

She also plays water polo for the Knights, who are the four-time defending CIF San Diego Section Division II champions. When she’s not playing sports, she is busy with a number of clubs at school and maintains a GPA of 3.50, according to her club softball biography page. Camarda could not be reached for comment.

Camarda is hoping to pitch in college, though as a junior she isn’t too far along in the process of deciding where to study and play. Until then, she’ll continue dominating hitters at the high school level, which is quite all right with Abeyta and everyone else at Bishop’s. And those opposing hitters will have to learn to handle a pitcher who is not only trying to strike them out every time she steps in the circle, but also battling for respect.