It takes a lot to catch Sacred Heart’s Janae Barracato off guard. But that’s exactly what happened to the senior third baseman recently — off the field.
First, though, some background: Barracato and the Spartans won their first CHSAA title last season, and are Long Island’s only returning state softball champ. Barracato earned Newsday All-Long Island honors.
However, there were changes in the offseason, as John Rama was named Sacred Heart coach in February. Rama listened to stories of the Spartans’ 2016 season, especially about the talented stable of returning players, including Barracato.
“She’s surpassed everything I had heard about her,” Rama said. “I don’t have to talk her up.”
After less than two weeks of watching Barracato during speed and agility training, Rama was impressed with her ability and work ethic. “After what I saw from her,” he said, “I knew what I wanted to do.”
Rama named Barracato the Spartans’ fourth captain during a team meeting in mid-March. The Spartans already had three senior captains: shortstop Marissa Braito, pitcher Claire O’Brien (both 2016 All-Long Island second-teamers) and first baseman Kayla Fitzpatrick.
“I was in shock. I wasn’t expecting that,” said Barracato, who signed a letter of intent with Seton Hall last November. “I planned on being more of a leader this season, so this was a good surprise.”
One that was well earned, according to a teammate. “Yes, she’s humble and quiet, but she’s so vocal on the field,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s right for her to assume that (leadership) role.”
That role was on display recently, when Barracato was taking throws at third base. Being the first outdoor practice of the spring, some tosses weren’t quite accurate. “Some girls shy away from bad throws,” Fitzpatrick said, “but she sacrifices everything for them.”
Sometimes too much.
“She didn’t ask out,” Rama said. “Finally, I had to tell her to go take some work at shortstop. She has no shut-off switch.”
Whether that’s defensively, where Barracato plays third base as a righthander, or at the plate, where the ambidextrous senior bats lefthanded.
Barracato’s 2016 numbers read like a video game. She batted .479 (46-for-96) with 26 extra-base hits, including six home runs, with 45 RBIs, 43 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. Barracato had an on-base percentage of .569 and a .958 slugging percentage. She struck out only three times in 32 games. She made only four errors and had a .951 fielding percentage.
“She is the hardest worker on the team,” 12th-year assistant coach Dennis DeBorger said. “What she does on the field is second to none.”
Barracato, who has a 3.7 GPA, values the opportunity to perform on the softball diamond. “The fact that I get to play a game I love each and every day,” she said, “is something I wouldn’t change for the world.”