Meagan Anderson's decision to play softball at Farmingdale State turned out to be a home run. The freshman catcher from Patchogue led the team to the Skyline Conference title and berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament. Pairings will be announced May 13.
Anderson's college career took a detour even before she played a game. In her junior year at Patchogue-Medford High School, the 5-8 catcher committed to Division II East Stroudsburg. She only lasted the first semester of 2012.
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"I was there for the fall, but I didn't like being away from home," she said. "I'm a homebody, very close with my family. I felt like I was missing too much, I didn't like being away. It wasn't for me."
But what about continuing the sport she had played since she was 6? "I was going to stop playing softball," she said.
Not if Farmingdale coach Chris Mooney had anything to say about it. He wanted her at Farmingdale after high school but knew her skills went beyond Division III. "I didn't think I could get her," he said. "We got lucky, she didn't want to be too far away from home. She's by far the best catcher we've ever had. She makes a big difference behind the plate. Offensively, she's great but she brings so much to the table for us defensively that you don't see in the boxscore."
Anderson liked what Mooney had to offer.
"He told me I had a spot here," she said. "I figured it's better than giving it up, because softball really has been my life. I'm very happy with my decision. I'm very happy here. I was worried about not fitting in, but I love my team, they've become my best friends. I'm so grateful for them."
Anderson leads the team in batting average (.412), runs scored (39), hits (56), triples (3), home runs(4), slugging percentage(.647), on-base percentage (.441), stolen bases (9) and fielding percentage (.989). She was named the Skyline's rookie of the year.
Anderson is a power hitter, but bats leadoff.
"We don't have that ideal leadoff hitter, she's always been a 3-4 hitter," Mooney said. "She can hit, has a very good eye, can bunt, has power, she can do everything. She can only get better. She's so patient at the plate. She gets the hit when you need them."
That was evident in the conference finale as Anderson's two-out home run in the seventh inning against St. Joseph's gave Farmingdale a 2-1 victory. "I was very nervous getting up with two outs," she said. "I was 0-for-3 and that usually doesn't happen. [Associate athletic director] Tom Azzara gave me a little pep talk, he helped me a lot. I calmed down a little bit. It felt amazing. I was so happy I was able to do that for my team."
Said Azzara: "She was getting frustrated, it looked like she was slapping at it. I just told her `Look, get your hands back and drive it. Just drive the ball.' First pitch she hit to the opposite field for a home run. She hit a rocket into the wind and it went out."
Farmingdale named Anderson as one of its top five female athletes of the year. She was presented with the award at a banquet. "This past week has been like a shock to me, I wasn't expecting to get the award," she said. "I'm very much honored. I'm so happy."