Messina's right arm spurs Camden Catholic's hopes

Camden Catholic's Laura Messina winds up to deliver a pitch in a scrimmage with Cherry Hill East last Friday. The righthanded senior is a key part of the Irish's drive for a state championship.
Camden Catholic's Laura Messina winds up to deliver a pitch in a scrimmage with Cherry Hill East last Friday. The righthanded senior is a key part of the Irish's drive for a state championship.

The Irish have a shot at a state championship behind the senior pitcher.

Posted: March 31, 2011

As the Camden Catholic softball team prepares for another season, the comfort level is high among coaches and players with Laura Messina in the circle.

One of the top pitchers in South Jersey, Messina wants to end her senior season on a successful note before heading to play at Central Connecticut State University.

"We want to win states because we have the team to do it," Messina said. "We lost one senior, the catcher, Brooke Fisher, to graduation. Everyone else is back."

Included in a familiar lineup are four juniors who started as freshmen, two of whom are captains with Messina: leftfielder Jen Varallo and second baseman Danielle Frasca.

The Irish have experience; however, depth could be a problem and their hitting remains a question mark. But Messina is confident in her teammates, with whom she worked out in the offseason at a local indoor sports facility.

"We went to the hitting [practice] to try to improve, every one of us," Messina said. "We still need to make improvements, but we're better than last year."

Last season, the Irish won their third straight Olympic Conference National Division crown and lost to Red Bank Catholic, 1-0, in the Non-Public South Jersey A quarterfinals.

Messina batted .533 with 13 doubles and two home runs. Add that to her 0.50 ERA, and it's easy to see why the four-year starter is so important to the team.

"Messina gets a lot of press because she has been the best player on the team," Camden Catholic coach Mavreen Hering said. "She deserves it. She has been a rock for us."

The 18-year-old has been so steady in the circle that she is on course to get 1,000 career strikeouts. At 803, Messina holds the school's single-season strikeout record with 303, which she accomplished as a sophomore.

The Marlton resident has 29 career shutouts, including three perfect games.

"I've watched her for a few years now, and she has that oomph factor, where she commands the mound," Central Connecticut coach Jeff Franquet said. "She's a competitor and has endurance where she could be a force throwing back-to-back games for us.

"She has a great family, and that adds to the attraction to bring her into the program."

The oldest of four children born to Jim and Kirsten Messina, Laura Messina has spearheaded the drive into athletics for her 14-year-old brother, Dominic, a baseball and football player, and two younger sisters, Karly and Anna, pitchers for the Marlton Thunder.

Ali Summers, a sophomore, is the new catcher for the Irish, replacing Fisher, who had caught Messina since they were about 10 years old. But the veteran hurler feels confident that the underclassman can handle her screwball, curve, drop, rise, change-up, and fastball.

"I will miss Brooke's personality, and she was a great catcher," said Messina, who plans to study criminal justice. "But Ali is up there. She will be as good as Brooke. We worked together all winter."

Summers and her teammates are as comfortable working with Messina as the pitcher is with leading the Irish through a difficult schedule that includes two teams she has never beaten: Washington Township and Cherokee.

Pressure? Messina says she doesn't feel it, at the plate or in the circle. All of which increases the comfort level among her teammates and coaches.


Contact staff writer Bill Iezzi at 856-779-3826 or biezzi@phillynews.com.

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