Olivia Gallati pitches against UConn. The Pride won 3-0. (March...

Olivia Gallati pitches against UConn. The Pride won 3-0. (March 18, 2010) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Olivia Galati, destined to become a dominant softball pitcher at St. John the Baptist and now at Hofstra, started her career with a bat. She remembers being 6 or 7 when her father, Nick, introduced the bat, not the ball, into her life.

"Grab a bat,'' she recalled her dad saying, with no expectation on his part or hers that it would be anything more than a father-daughter moment. Galati hit the ball over the roof of her West Babylon house and "Dad said, 'We might have a softball player here.' "

Now for the rest of the story. Galati developed a fascination with pitching when, as a 9-year-old, she saw a group of older girls on the field. The focus of attention was on the pitcher.

"The control that she had on the mound,'' Galati said, referring to her commanding presence. "I wanted to be in that position. I wanted to have the ball every single pitch. I loved having the power to control the game or turn the game around and dictate the outcome. I loved being in the circle. I'm born to do this; I'm meant to be a pitcher.''

And a star pitcher was born. The freshman sensation has a 16-2 record with 159 strikeouts in 1211/3 innings for the Pride (26-6). Her 1.10 earned run average leads the Colonial Athletic Association. She's had a five-inning perfect game.

In yesterday's doubleheader against James Madison, Galati struck out a career-high 17 and pitched a shutout in the opener, then had 12/3 innings of shutout relief with two strikeouts to get the save in Game 2. And that little girl who once hit the ball over the roof is now 18 and is hitting .308 with three homers and 20 RBIs.

The 5-5 Galati could have played anywhere in the country, but Hofstra was on her radar throughout her high school years. "I enjoyed coming to games as a fan,'' she said. "It was like I envisioned myself playing for this team. You have that feeling; this is my home.''

Junior catcher Laura Valentino was anxious to see her new teammate in action. "Since high school, I was hearing about this ace pitcher from St. John the Baptist,'' she said. "I heard she had some great stuff . . . With her on the mound, we can really make a run for it this season.''

Hofstra coach Bill Edwards went about fine-tuning what already was an accomplished and poised athlete.

"She's already there,'' he said. "She just needs to have more time to develop more command and experience, and really, that's all it is. I have all the faith in her during the big game to throw the big pitch right now."

Galati's repertoire includes "I guess you could call it a drop curve,'' Edwards said. "It's a curveball that the bottom falls out. It's moving on two planes. It's moving outside and down, which is very tough to hit. In order to complement that pitch, we taught her a screwball, which now comes into the righthanded hitter."

There's more. "She also has a knuckleball; she can throw a very good knuckleball that will dance,'' Edwards said. "A dancing knuckleball, a screwball to jam up hitters, she can work away, she can work high and low . . . She can work all four quadrants. The big thing about her is she is not afraid to pitch inside.''

Hofstra has made the NCAA Tournament 11 times and came within one victory of the College World Series in 2004. Galati's presence portends another string of postseason appearances.

"That has been my dream since I stepped on the mound,'' she said. "I want to go to the College World Series. I really want to before my four years end here.''


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