Few positions in sports hold as much power as a pitcher in softball.
As opposed to baseball, a softball pitcher can work just about every day. In sports like basketball and football, opponents can double — or even sometimes triple team — an individual, forcing other athletes to make a play to decide the outcome of a contest.
How do you get the ball out of the hand of a softball pitcher staring down from 43 feet away? There’s no other option than waiting for her to release it. The pitcher will start the play every single time.
“I love the confidence I get from it and I love the mindset,” said Taylor Eggert, a senior at Kings Park. “I’m the center, I’m the pitcher, I’m going to deliver each pitch. I have my hand on the ball the most and I just love being in the center circle. It’s my favorite.”
Eggert said she loves the power that comes with pitching. It’s where she feels most comfortable, and that goes for many of the top pitchers in Suffolk and Long Island, including St. Anthony’s Alyssa Seidler and Whitman’s Riley Piromalli.
Every pitcher has a different mentality in the circle, but each has a common attacking mindset. Some think about every possibility on a given play or pitch, some focus pitch by pitch, others try to stay 10 steps ahead. Eggert has a mindset of her own.
“I don’t really have anything in my head,” she said. “It goes completely blank. You could ask me my name and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I’m so zoned in on doing my job and getting as many strikes as I can.”
Eggert had 16 wins a 1.30 ERA and averaged 11.9 strikeouts last season. With the combination of power and finesse, few pitchers can match her talent and few hitters can make contact.
“I want to leave everything out on the field,” said Eggert, who is committed to Adelphi. “I want to do better than I did last year, break my strikeout mark of last year and I just want to do better all together because in the end, it’s going to help my team out.”
For Seidler, pitching didn’t come naturally. The junior started playing softball in the third grade, but didn’t start pitching until around age 11. She wasn’t an instant star in the circle, but had the drive to improve, going 8-2 last year with a 1.03 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 75 innings.
“It would frustrate me because I would see a lot of girls throw strikes and be successful and it took me a lot of failure to be successful,” Seidler said. “But when I started working hard and putting the effort in, all the work showed.”
Seidler, who has pitched in league and state championship games, thrives in the circle when the games matter most. She said that the more important the game, the more she demands of herself.
“I feel that when I’m playing in these huge games, I’m definitely more zoned in, definitely more engaged,” said Seidler, who is verbally committed to Boston College. “I love that pressure. I feel like it drives me to do well.”
For others, like Piromalli, softball is a family affair. When Riley was younger, she would attend the tournament games of her older sister, Jenna, wanting to imitate everything she did in the circle.
“She would always pitch and whenever I watched her, I would pitch with my dad and call him over,” Riley said. “I loved softball. I love the nature of it.”
Riley and her sister pitched to each other in the backyard growing up, and it helped Riley’s game grow. Last year she had a 2.43 ERA and recorded 149 strikeouts in 115 innings. Just like every other successful pitcher in the area, she embraces the control and the power that comes with standing in the circle with a game’s fate in her hand.
“I love it, I’m always a competitor, I love to compete,” Piromalli said. “I always want the ball in a tough situation. I definitely love the control I have over the ball.”
And when there’s a pitcher that teammates and a coach can trust in the circle, the boost of confidence is clear for every player on the field.
“It’s huge,” said St. Anthony’s coach Mike Massa. “You go into the game knowing that you have a top-flight pitcher and a team always feels they can win. Even if your bats are off for a day, they will always keep you in a game.”
Others pitchers to watch this season: Emily Chelius, East Rockaway, Sr.; Julia Golino, Mt. Sinai, Sr.; Christina Hassett, Farmingdale, Sr.; Emmi Katz, Commack, Soph.; Kristina Maggiacomo, Ward Melville, Sr.; Hailey Puglia, Sachem East, Sr.; Lindsay Roman, Calhoun, Jr.; Jaclyn Schemmer, Carey, Sr.; Erin Steinert, St. Anthony’s, Sr.; Julia Tarantino, Kellenberg, Jr.