Pietrafesa is softball player of year

Don't be fooled by her size: 5-foot-2 Brielle Pietrafesa packs a wallop on offense. She finished her high school career with 36 homers, batting .483 in her senior season for the 20-4 Eagles. DAVID M WARREN / Staff
Don't be fooled by her size: 5-foot-2 Brielle Pietrafesa packs a wallop on offense. She finished her high school career with 36 homers, batting .483 in her senior season for the 20-4 Eagles. DAVID M WARREN / Staff
Posted: June 15, 2014

Brielle Pietrafesa knows what many people think when she walks to the plate and digs her cleats into the dirt in the batter's box.

"She's so little."

Standing 5-foot-2, Pietrafesa figures there's any number of ways she can show that her height doesn't matter when it comes to success on the softball field.

She can play strong defense at shortstop.

Check.

She can hit for average.

Check.

She can hit for power.

Double check.

"It's weird," said Pietrafesa, a recent Paul VI graduate who is The Inquirer's South Jersey Player of the Year in softball. "I think people still underestimate me because of my height and size.

"They don't realize how much time and effort I put into playing this game and improving and becoming the best player that I can be.

"One of the ways I can show them is by hitting all those home runs. I'm proud that I was able to do that."

If one statistic stands out from Pietrafesa's sensational career, it's her home-run total.

Pietrafesa finished her high school career with 36 homers. Although there aren't comprehensive records for South Jersey softball, longtime Buena coach Pam Pickett suspects that Pietrafesa might have set the South Jersey record.

Pietrafesa hit double-digit home runs as a sophomore, junior, and senior - a remarkable run of sustained power hitting.

"She's a tiny thing, but when you touch one of her arms, you realize how solid she is," Paul VI coach Dawn Mader said. "She works out a lot. She's a five-tool player."

Pietrafesa said she took her preparation to another level before her senior season.

"This past winter, I was pretty much in the gym every day," Pietrafesa said. "Hitting, lifting, conditioning, velocity work. I wanted to be in great shape."

Pietrafesa batted .514 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs as a junior. She knew pitchers would work around her as a senior.

She still batted .483 (43 for 89) with 10 home runs, 40 RBIs, 41 runs, and 20 stolen bases for a Paul VI team that finished 20-4, earned the Olympic Conference National Division title, and was South Jersey's highest-ranked team in the final Newark Star-Ledger state rankings, at No. 13.

"We didn't go as far as we wanted," said Pietrafesa, noting that the Eagles lost to St. John Vianney in the semifinals of the South A tournament. "But we had a great year. I'll definitely always remember playing with this team and playing for a coach [Mader] who put in so much time and effort to make us the best team we can be."

Pietrafesa, who lives in Pennsauken, has signed with Hofstra on a softball scholarship. She spent a couple of days at the school in Hempstead, N.Y., this week as part of an orientation program.

"When I first visited as a sophomore, everybody was so nice," said Pietrafesa, who plans to major in special education. "It's a great school with a great softball program.

"One of my goals since I was little was to play in the Women's College World Series. I think we'll have a chance to get there."

Pietrafesa said she never expected to become one of the most accomplished power hitters in South Jersey softball history. She credits Mader and her father, Anthony, with her development.

"When I first got to Paul VI, I thought I would get to play and have fun," said Pietrafesa, who finished with 187 career hits. "It wasn't until my coach [Mader] got here three years ago and I had a good sophomore year that I realized what I could do.

"I never expected to do this well. But my coach believed in me, and my dad believed in me and worked with me, and I had a lot of support from my teammates."

Paul VI doesn't have an outfield fence at its softball field. So, many of Pietrafesa's home runs were hits to the outfield gaps or over an outfielder's head on plays in which she circled the bases in a hurry.

But she hit her share over fences at opposing fields, including one that sticks in her memory because of what happened in her next at-bat.

"I was going for my 100th hit," Pietrafesa recalled of a game at Timber Creek in her junior season. "I hit one over the fence for my 99th hit, and then the next time up, I hit a little blooper for my 100th hit.

"I couldn't believe it. I wanted to take it back."


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

www.inquirer.com/

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