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The softball diamond is where the Tyteca family calls home

On April 29, 2011

Shasta Tyteca is one of a kind.

The senior utility player knows that her collegiate career has only eight games remaining. Her team sits precariously one game ahead of the dreaded seventh and eighth positions in the WAC standings.

Tyteca's career may very well end without the opportunity to compete in postseason play for a championship. The WAC's two bottom-feeders do not qualify for the conference tournament.

Yet none of that matters when she looks to the mound and sees someone special there, preparing to unleash yet another pitch - a part of the 28 starts she has made this season, among the best in the league.

That someone is none other than Tyteca's sister.

When it comes to the USU softball team, you might say it's a family matter. Besides the duo of senior Megan McDonald and her freshman sibling Nichole, Shasta and Shelbi Tyteca complete a foursome not often seen on a collegiate-level team.

"I feel lucky," Shasta said of being able to play with the the oldest of three younger sisters for the past two years - a continuation of a career that has involved Shelbi both in summer leagues and at Viewmont High School. "She's my second half. We've always had that connection, so it's nice to finish out my collegiate career with her."

Shasta doesn't have to look far to have that motion seconded.

"People say, ‘isn't it tough having your sister play with you? and I'm like, ‘no, I like it,' every time," Shelbi said when asked if she could imagine stepping onto the field without her self-described "mentor" at her side.

Sharing in the joys and sorrows of the sport is an affair that the rest of the Farmington, Utah, natives' clan shares with them over the course of hundreds of games in a given year.

"Softball is family time in my house," she said. "We never really get tired of it because we make it such a positive atmosphere for ourselves."

Despite knowing such a presence is behind the backstop in so many games, Shelbi is glad to have on-field bloodline guidance.

"(Shasta) shows me the confidence I need to have, because I tend to lack that as a pitcher," said Shelbi, who is also on the painful end of the top of another conference category, in number of times hit by a pitch. The exercise science major is fourth in the WAC at 33.

It's a job Shasta is pleased to do, despite, as a catcher, not playing the same position. Giving the signals to someone she grew up with is a unique experience, she said.

"In the past, I know that there might have been pitches that aren't necessarily her best pitch, but I call it anyways," Shasta said. "We put ourselves in situations where it might not be the best success, but we get it done anyway. She knows that I made the right call, and I know she's going to put the pitch right where I need it."

Such is the advantage of having a connection unique to the rest of the competition.

Good thing they like each other.

"You just get little reads off each other that you wouldn't get if you weren't so close," Shasta said. "She might stand or hold herself a certain way and that gives me a heads up to whether I need to be harder or compassionate with her."

The team won't see any less than two Tytecas on its side anytime soon. Bailee Tyteca, currently a senior at Viewmont High School, was part of Aggie coach Carissa Millsap-Kalaba's 2011 signing class.

Bailee is a three-year letter winner for Viewmont, having received honorable mention all-state following her junior year. As a sophomore, she helped lead the Vikings to a second-place finish in the 5A state tournament in 2009.

But don't think the Aggie-to-be committed to come to Logan to necessarily keep any sort of family legacy alive, the oldest warned.

"Nope, that kid is her own kind," Shasta said. "We really didn't have an impact on that. She's her own individual being."

Bailee's primary reason for joining USU in the fall, Shasta said, is because of the university's nationally-renowned special education program.

"Our parents are consistently telling us to go where you are going to enjoy the educational experience, because in a matter of seconds, your collegiate career, athletically, could be over," she said. "So, it's just more of the environment and the academic opportunities that are offered at the university that we actually flock to, not necessarily the athletics. That's a bonus."

Now that such a bonus is concluding for one Tyteca, the .286 hitter for the season is swinging for the scholastic fences, hoping to enter a master's program at a university in California following her graduation in sports psychology next week.

Not that she can leave her customary spot behind the plate, and everything else that encompasses her college experience, too easily.

"It's just been the best four years that I've had a chance to experience," Shasta said. "Having Shelbi here was a bonus. It enhanced the experience."

- rhett.wilkinson@aggiemail.usu.edu

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