It seemed too improbable not to be a coincidence when a pitching coach and one of her star pitchers from the same school in southern California decided to transfer to the University of Maryland simultaneously.
But coach Tori Tyson and junior Sydney Golden both insist they did not confer with the other before deciding to head east after the 2017 season.
“Even though everyone thinks it wasn’t [a coincidence], it completely was,” Golden said.
Tyson and Golden worked together for two years at California State University, Fullerton before coming to Maryland. Tyson said she took extra care to make sure her transfer process would not influence Golden’s.
“I wouldn’t even talk to [Golden] about Maryland,” she said. “When [head coach Julie Wright] did my interview, I didn’t want any overlap, I didn’t even want Sydney to know I had taken the job, so that’s why they didn’t do a [press] release.”
Tyson said she did not want the close relationship she and Golden had developed to influence Golden’s decision on where to transfer.
“I spoke to so many schools on behalf of Sydney, actually. They would call me and ask for a reference,” Tyson said. “I wanted her to be happy, I wanted it to be somewhere she could thrive in, because I owe that to her. That’s what I would hope someone would have done for my daughter.”
Before Maryland and Fullerton, Tyson also had stints as an assistant coach at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Doane College in Crete, Neb.
Maryland head coach Julie Wright, however, had her eye on Tyson even before Tyson began her collegiate coaching career. They first met when Tyson was coaching high school travel ball in California around six years ago.
“I watched her during a game coaching a pitcher and I was just really impressed with it. So I introduced myself and I said her skill set would translate to the college game. I thought she did a really nice job,” Wright said.
“We’ve just kept in touch over the years, waiting for a good moment. I just always kept my eye on her and we were searching for a new pitching coach and I felt like she was in a good place to be able to do it,” Wright said.
At Fullerton, Tyson helped Golden develop into a fearsome pitcher.
During her freshman season in 2016, Golden appeared in 32 games for the Titans, starting 23 of them. She pitched to an 18-6 record with a 1.97 earned run average in 138 ⅔ innings. Golden’s pitching performance helped lead Cal State Fullerton to a 17-4 record, good for first place in the Big West Conference regular season.
Golden won the 2016 Big West Conference Freshman Pitcher of the Year award, and she was also named to the conference’s First Team and All-Freshman Team.
The Riverside, California native also had a successful sophomore campaign in 2017, amassing a 2.97 ERA and a 7-6 record in 80 innings.
Wright was excited when she learned Golden was considering a transfer to Maryland.
“I obviously knew who [Golden] was. She had done very well in her first two years,” Wright said. “She came on her visit, I think she had a pretty good time and it was just a lot of fun. I think we had what she was looking for academically and athletically.”
Wright said she also had independent recruiting processes with Tyson and Golden.
“It kind of happened separately,” she said. “I got release from Sydney [first]. Then Tori actually came after her.”
Golden has been a workhorse in her first season with Maryland, starting 23 of the team’s 55 games and pitching 151 ⅔ of the team’s 357 innings.
“She just wears you out,” Wright said. “She’s been performing really well. Just an even demeanor out there. She’s got a good presence.”
Golden’s teammates have been equally impressed.
“[She’s] awesome,” senior second baseman Skylynne Ellazar said. “She’s a drop ball pitcher. You’re not going to see many fly balls from her. So giving her the ball, we know all we have to do is get some runs on the board…[and] we’re going to win.”
Off the field, it took some time for Golden’s teammates to warm up to her quirky tastes.
“I didn’t think I was going to like her,” said catcher Anna Kufta. “She is into Star Wars and a lot of video games, the opposite of what I am into. So I was like ‘Coach, I don’t think we’re going to be friends.’ But we’re really both competitive and I think we click on that level. We figured out how to be friends.”
Now acclimated to the team, Golden is looking toward improving her performance next season. Although she played a significant role in the team’s 18 wins, there is still room for improvement on her 5.03 ERA.
“We knew going into the Big Ten [conference] we were going to have to develop a couple more pitches and seeing tougher competition every weekend,” Tyson said. “So continuing to just develop more pitches and finesse her craft and getting her into really good conditioning shape.”
Tyson said she feels a closeness to Golden that goes beyond the player-coach relationship, having seen her grow and develop as a pitcher and a person over the past three years. Tyson said it is hard to think about next season, which will be the rising senior’s last.
“I cry every senior day,” she said. “That one might hurt a little more.”
Tyson said she loves Maryland and hopes to put down roots there for herself and her 4-year-old daughter. That she has been able to see Golden thrive as well makes it all the more special for her.
“She’s happy here,” Tyson said. “She’s developing and she’s growing into her own, so it’s been amazing. I’m very grateful that I have been a part of her journey and I still am.”
It is safe to say the feeling is mutual.
“We work extremely well together,” Golden said, “and I wouldn’t want anybody else to come across the country with me.”