TAMPA, Fla. -- She'll emerge from her dugout Friday night, walk over a baseline onto the biggest stage of her career -- and step directly into a soundproof circle.
When the Tampa Super Regional begins at No. 19 South Florida Friday night, Hofstra ace Olivia Galati won't hear a thing. The 20-year-old normally answers to "Olivia" or "Liv," but not then. Her coaches and opponents are afforded the same obliviousness. "Apparently," the junior righty said, "I'm deaf and blind."
"I have this whistle to get everyone's attention," veteran Pride coach Bill Edwards added, pursing his lips together to demonstrate. "So I give a quick whistle and all eyes are on me. And sometimes [Galati] doesn't even hear it. She's so into it."
It's a silent inner sanctum that hasn't been penetrated since March 4 -- Galati's last loss. A self-professed perfectionist and aspiring acoustic guitarist "oddly obsessed" with Taylor Swift songs, Galati (33-5, 0.91 ERA) enters this best-of-three series having won her last 31 starts. Two more in a row and she'll not only tie the NCAA Division I single-season record but propel the Pride (41-13) into its first College World Series.
Maybe then, and only then, she'll hear the cacophony. Not before.
"I don't know. I always try to find some sort of explanation for it," said Galati, whose 17 shutouts lead Division I. "They always say, 'It's your name, why don't you respond to it?' But I don't know, I don't hear it."
Edwards, meanwhile, won't hear of trying to roust his ace from her proverbial zone, which he says is insulated by mental fortitude. How else does one explain the defining juncture of Galati's season?
At last week's Los Angeles Regional at UCLA, Hofstra led the 12th-seeded host 7-2 entering the bottom of the seventh. Three consecutive singles brought up Stephany LaRosa, who had homered in her previous at-bat.
LaRosa worked a full count before Pride assistant Larissa Anderson, who still calls all the pitches, signaled for a changeup. It's one of a quintet of pitches Edwards says Galati is capable of throwing at any time. LaRosa struck out looking.
"The difference between the good pitchers and the great pitchers is, the good pitchers don't have the mental ability sometimes to make that pitch. They don't want to make that pitch," said Edwards, whose team has won 20 straight. "Olivia just absolutely relishes that moment, thrives on that moment and wants to make that pitch.
"The physical part of her ability," Edwards said, "is matched by her mental toughness."