She pitched 36 innings in one night and threw 35 no-hitters. Tacoma loses a sports legend

Stadium High graduate and fastpitch softball Hall of Famer Louise Mazzuca died Tuesday in Portland. She was 79.
Stadium High graduate and fastpitch softball Hall of Famer Louise Mazzuca died Tuesday in Portland. She was 79. Courtesy

On a long night in 1964, a Tacoma sports legend all but redefined endurance.

Pitching for the Whittier (California) Gold Sox in a regional fastpitch softball tournament, Louise Mazzuca pitched a 7-inning, complete game victory, took a 20-minute break, and then spent the rest of the night locked in an 29-inning pitching duel with a team from Orange, California. Mazzuca's team lost 1-0, but her 36-inning night left fans in awe.

On Tuesday afternoon, two weeks after learning she was voted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame, Mazzuca died in a Portland hospital after long battle with heart disease. She was 79.

Mazzuca graduated from Stadium High in 1958, 14 years before Title IX, 34 years before fastpitch became an official high school sport in Washington, 24 years before it became an NCAA sport and 38 years before it was added to the Olympics.

She started playing at 11 and, in high school, Mazzuca played for Tacoma's Hollywood Boat and Motor.

She grew up in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood and spent much of her time playing sports with the boys. "She was like a sister," said Pat Kelly, who has been friends with Mazzuca since 1943.

"We would wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, put a sandwich in our pocket and play until dinnertime," Kelly said.

He said the neighborhood friends tried to form a fastpitch team and pass Mazzuca off as a boy. "She was as good as anybody," Kelly said. The team never materialized.

After graduation, she spent most of the next decade dominating the sport for teams in Oregon and California. She pitched 35 no-hitters (including 9 perfect games), made five All-America teams and set a World Tournament record in 1961 with three no-hitters.

In 2007, she became just the second woman from Washington to be inducted into the American Softball Association Hall of Fame. She was also a member of the Northwest Sports, Tacoma-Pierce County Sports and the Tacoma-Pierce County Baseball-Softball Old-Timers halls of fame.

As a 19-year-old playing for Oregon's Erv Lind Florists, she pitched in the finals of the world championships. The Connecticut Brakettes won 1-0 for the second of their 28 national championships. She shared tournament MVP honors with future-Hall of Famer Bertha Ragan Tickey of the Brakettes.

The 1960 title games was played in front of 18,000 people in Connecticut with similar results. She threw three no-hitters and struck out 75 over 45 innings, but again lost to the Brakettes in the finals. Mazzuca and Ragan once again split MVP honors.

From 1962-66, Mazzuca played for teams in California, before retiring because of heart problems. After her fastpitch career she graduated from Portland State University in 1982, the first year for NCAA fastpitch. She worked as realtor.

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497, @AdventureGuys