The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Patricia “Trish” Malaspina will ride a plane to Los Angeles this weekend to see her boyfriend.
If all goes according to plan, the College of San Mateo sophomore also will grab the attention of a four-year coach to continue playing basketball at the next level.
That’s because the annual Sophomore Showcase for community college women’s basketball players will be held Saturday at Oxnard College from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“There’s a lot of different scouts there, so it will be good exposure for her,” said CSM coach Michelle Warner, who had her star guard Erica Hayes discovered by Dixie State at last year’s showcase. “Someone is going to get a really good athlete.”
A two-sport athlete, in fact.
The 20-year-old is also a corner infielder for a CSM softball team that is enjoying a 10-game win streak and has its sights set on the Coast Conference title.
“Everyone has the same goal to succeed and get that conference championship,” Malaspina said. “I don’t have one for basketball, so I would really, really like to have one for softball.”
Malaspina had last played softball as a senior at Burlingame in 2008. She considered double-dipping with the Bulldogs a year ago, but CSM softball coach Nicole Borg denied her request because the season was already 15 games under way.
“Regardless of how good she is, you need a little bit of practice time,” Borg said. “And I don’t like putting anyone in a situation where they’re not prepared to succeed.” So not only did her freshman season on the hardwood end prematurely because of a broken ankle, Malaspina also was banned from the infield dirt.
Suddenly she was determined to accomplish more as a sophomore. That meant Malaspina needed to find a way to balance basketball with softball — not to mention homework — during the fall and winter.
“Here I would go to basketball practice and then I’d come down and take some swings, usually by myself,” she said.
As a beast in the low post, the 6-footer helped CSM (11-15) reach the women’s basketball state playoffs.
The Bulldogs saw their season end Feb. 23 with a 58-53 overtime loss at home. Malaspina had her typical game with 14 points and 14 rebounds. She also showed off some versatility by draining a 3-pointer.
“My size helps me go inside,” Malaspina said. “And if I’m inside, they’ll put somebody on me that is not fast enough to guard me on the outside. Plus, they don’t give me the respect that I deserve for my outside shooting.”
The Kevin Love clone averaged 14.9 points and 9.9 rebounds — tantalizingly close to a double-double for the season.
“I’m still kind of bitter about that,” Malaspina said with a laugh.
The basketball and softball schedules intertwined for a little more than three weeks, with Malaspina putting on the spikes for a few games that didn’t interfere with basketball until a pitcher hit her on the same ankle she broke a year earlier.
“I got scared by that,” said Malaspina, who sat out roughly five softball games after that, though she still came out to take batting practice two or three times a week.
“She was seeing ground balls, she was seeing live pitching, so at least when she came out of basketball, she was ready to go,” Borg said.
That’s an understatement.
In limited time, Malaspina has already hit four home runs — including a pair of grand slams. The right-handed slugger is hitting .333 for the season and .583 during Coast Conference play.
“It’s great to have another big stick in the lineup,” Borg said.
“I’ve never hit this well — even in high school,” said Malaspina, who credits the CSM staff for adjustments made on her swing.
Some Div. II and Div. III institutions have hinted at the possibility of playing both sports as a junior, but Malaspina has her doubts.
“That would be fun, but I don’t know if I would want to do it — it’s really hard on the body,” said Malaspina, who hopes to land with a a four-year program near L.A. to stay close to her boyfriend, Jeremy Galten — a former CSM offensive lineman who transferred to USC.
“For her it’s a matter of where her heart is,” Borg said. “She likes both sports, but which one does she love more than the other? When you go to the next level, it’s tough to play both. You have to choose one.”
E-mail Vytas Mazeika at email@example.com.