By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ping.

The sound of a Laura Espinoza home run is not earth-shattering. It's just a simple ping off the barrel of her aluminum bat.

She will pound her bat into a pitch and then rapidly, the yellow ball will sail off into the distance, appearing as a speck as it clears the outfield fence.

The impact of her ho-mers, however, have been louder than that sound.

While the No. 1 Arizona softball team has shot down most of its opponents, a Laura Espinoza homer can be anticipated in certain situations. She has re-written parts of the NCAA record book this season with a record 25 homers and 84 RBI. She has also established NCAA career marks with 43 homers and 176 RBI.

"She has outdone herself in that regard," Coach Mike Candrea said, shaking his head in disbelief while thinking about her offensive output. "She is a great hitter and when she puts it together, there is not a ball park in the country that's going to hold her."

Espinoza, as well as Candrea, have attributed her success to a change in attitude. They said she has learned to make better decisions and not take the bad too hard.

But a major factor has been her parents. Her father, Marco, had changed her mechanics at the plate early in the year which helped boost her out of a slump. And her mother, Genoveva, has come out for games at Hillenbrand Stadium to support her daughter.

"You just beg for a weekend with them," said Espinoza, who has the second-best batting average on the team at .430. "When they're here, there is something in you that just sparks. You want to impress them but it's something that gives you an energy boost."

Unlike most of the team, Espinoza came out of a rough neighborhood in Wilmington, Calif., an urban part of Los Angeles. A lot of the people from her graduating class at Banning High School didn't get to go to college.

"I come from a place that not too many people come out of. They're either dead, in jail or pregnant," she said. "Coming from there makes you a real tough person. I'm not too scared of getting hurt."

A park across the street from her childhood home served as the learning ground in the development of a Division I star. Her father has umpired there, her mother and two siblings have coached there and she began her softball career there. Espinoza still goes back there with nostalgic memories while watching other little girls with similar aspirations.

"It makes me feel really good about myself to have a little girl come up to me and say, 'I want to be just like you and go to college,'" she said.

Espinoza has more than eclipsed childhood dreams the past two years as Arizona's power hitter. She had school records for most homers in a season (12) and career (18) before this season and was a second-team All-American.

She already anticipates traveling to Oklahoma City, Okla., for the College World Series late this month. And when Espinoza does, she wants her parents to be there with her. Her father has already made travel plans.

"I told my dad, 'If you're not there, I'm not going,'" she said. "Of course, I can't stay at home I have to go. It's just something I'm putting in his head. That would mean a lot if this year, Dad would be out there."