You see great windmillers coming from a mile away. They get plucked up as seventh or eighth graders and begin racking up strikeouts and credibility at an early age on the varsity. By the time they actually reach high school, their reputation is well established.
That was the path of the last great arm – St. John the Baptist’s Olivia Galati – to emerge from the Catholic league. Galati, now starring for Hofstra, pitched at West Babylon before her legendary career in the CHSAA ever began.
That’s why the remarkable run by the softball team, fuelled by dynamic freshman pitcher Michelle Carbone, was so surprising a year ago.
Carbone never threw an inning for the Deer Park varsity. And with eight newcomers in the field, the Friars weren’t given much of a chance to contend. But coach Mike Massa believed in Carbone and she delivered.
The Friars eventually reached the Nassau-Suffolk CHSAA final before falling to St. John the Baptist, 5-4.
“We went undefeated in league play and went to the final game,” Massa said. “We exceeded expectations last year. This year it’s a different ball game.”
Now a sophomore, Carbone is impossible to overlook. Headlined by the talented windmiller, St. Anthony’s has eight starters back and is the team to beat. Quite a turnaround from this point a year ago.
Last Season: 22-2 overall, 16-0 CHSAA.
Coach: Mike Massa (third year).
- Michelle Carbone, sophomore, pitcher
- Joanna Chalifoux, junior, catcher
- Christine Cleary, senior, shortstop
- Marilyn Freeman, senior, first base
- Nicole Parkas, senior, third base
Position Breakdown: The entire infield returns, highlighted by All-CHSAA selections at catcher, first base, shortstop and third. Junior catcher Joanna Chalifoux was an all-league performer and the team’s best power hitter. Senior Nicole Parkas, a three-year starter, teams will fellow senior shortstop Christine Cleary to anchor the left side. First baseman Marilyn Freeman is the team’s cleanup hitter and led the Friars in RBI a year ago.
“Best talent I’ve seen,” said Freeman, who has been on the team four years. “As a team we fit well together.”
St. Anthony’s also returns starters at second base, center field and right.
But this game is all about pitching and Massa has talent and depth in the circle. Carbone is, in a word – versatile. She will play the field when she’s not pitching. And she’ll be a mainstay in the lineup.
The CHSAA moved the pitching circle to the college dimensions of 43 feet last year. It was an adjustment. The 5-foot, 6-inch Carbone is a year stronger and more experienced. She relies on a screwball and curve, but will also get hitters to chase her drop, riser and change.
Carbone, the CHSAA pitcher of the year, also will have help. Freshman newcomer Aileen Reilly will get an opportunity to pitch.
“I think that’s going to make us stronger to have two No. 1 [caliber] pitchers,” Massa said.
Expectations: Massa once took Half Hollow Hills to the Suffolk title game. He has the Friars on the path to a championship this season. So Massa can flat-out coach.
There’s no doubt the Friars will dominate thanks to pitching and defense. They need to be consistent at the plate and collect the timely hit.
Carbone, for one, is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s great to have a second year with the same lineup,” she said.
While the game is heavily tilted toward pitching, Carbone won’t have to do it all. She admittedly wore down as the season progressed last May. If Reilly can give Carbone a break and St. Anthony’s a lift, then the Friars are a threat to win a Catholic state title this season and beyond.
You can see it from a mile away.
April 11: St. Anthony’s @ Holy Trinity, 4:30 p.m.
April 16: Kellenberg @ St. Anthony’s, 4:30 p.m.
April 28: Sacred Heart Academy @ St. Anthony’s, 4:30 p.m.
May 2: St. Anthony’s @ St. John the Baptist, 4:30 p.m.
May 12: Our Lady of Mercy Academy @ St. Anthony’s, 4:30 p.m.