Pietrafesa looks to wrap up remarkable career with CAA crown
On any team that packs as much pop as this year’s Hofstra softball team, it would typically be hard to single out one player as excelling ahead of the pack. Each member of Hofstra’s lineup could be an opposing pitcher’s nightmare on any given day; if there’s a weakness to be found anywhere in the Pride’s formidable offense, the rest of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) has yet to find it.
Yet, despite the exceptional balance that Hofstra displays at the plate, there’s one name that always seems to find the box scores – one name that seems to stand out time and time again as the Pride continue down the road in what has been a sensational season: Brielle Pietrafesa.
Pietrafesa has been the catalyst in Hofstra’s rapid ascent to the top of the CAA standings, and her all-around approach to the game is one that, above all, will keep the Pride riding this historic hot streak all the way to the conference crown.
Of course, those words would never come from the mouth of Pietrafesa herself. The senior right fielder is more likely to praise her teammates than to spend a moment on her own remarkable accomplishments over a fantastic four-year career in the blue and gold.
But numbers speak louder than words, and Pietrafesa’s stats this season speak volumes in support of how pivotal a presence she is in the Hofstra lineup. After a 4-4 day in Hofstra’s 14-4 win over the University of Delaware on Sunday afternoon, Pietrafesa’s batting average increased to .345, tops on the team. Even crazier to think about is the fact that just one month ago, Pietrafesa’s average sat at a lowly .207, 100 points lower than her current number.
“I just put it into perspective that I don’t have any seasons left after this, so I needed to get my stuff together. I did a little extra hitting and it came around,” Pietrafesa said.
Her stellar performance on Sunday included an inside-the-park home run, Pietrafesa’s 11th round tripper of the season, which is also a team-high.
As if that wasn’t enough, Pietrafesa finds herself atop the Pride in a few other categories as well. Extra-base hits, RBIs and slugging percentage are all currently topped by Pietrafesa, while she ranks second in runs scored and on-base percentage.
She is also tied atop the leaderboard in hits with 40, along with Hofstra leadoff hitter Kristin Hallam. Pietrafesa reached the 40-hit mark with 11 fewer at-bats than Hallam. The two have combined for what has become the most dangerous top of the order in the conference.
“Having Hallam in front of me as the one batter, she communicates with me so well. I’m always expecting the best when I go up to bat,” Pietrafesa said.
This standard of performance is nothing new to Pietrafesa, nor is her role in this lineup. Plugged into the order as a freshman, Pietrafesa has started all but three games in her entire career, earning her keep and displaying a remarkable consistency at the dish and in right field, the position she’s called home for the last four years despite coming out of high school as a shortstop.
Her versatility and value was recognized early on by Hofstra head coach Larissa Anderson. It’s interesting to note that while Pietrafesa was getting in her first few reps at Hofstra as a freshman, Anderson was making her head coaching debut for the Pride after serving as an assistant under former head coach and Hofstra legend Bill Edwards.
The two came into their new roles together, and Anderson helped Pietrafesa grow and flourish in the outfield.
Over her four years at the helm of the Pride, Anderson’s trademark has always been the stellar defense displayed by her teams. There may be no better example of that commitment to defense than Pietrafesa, who has made just three total errors in four years, a total so staggeringly low that it almost reads like a mistake made in the stat sheets.
“I came in and I was a decent outfielder, but [Anderson] made me a great outfielder,” Pietrafesa said.
Of course, it helps that, like Pietrafesa said herself, she was surrounded from the jump by a remarkable freshman class, including Brittany Allocca, Megan Patierno, Nikki Michalowski and more.
This group will undoubtedly be considered one of Hofstra’s most talented classes in recent memory, and Pietrafesa sits right at the center of it.
This is the class that came in and restored Hofstra to its place at the top of the CAA, winning a conference championship and unseating previous champ James Madison University.
JMU and Hofstra have been the two stalwarts in CAA softball since the conference picked up the sport in 2002 and it’s likely that, come tourney time in May, it’ll be the Pride and the Dukes swinging it out for the crown and a trip to the NCAA regionals.
JMU claimed the trophy the last two years, but this year it feels like the momentum may be swinging in Hofstra’s favor. Part of that has to be the confidence emanating from the Pride and, in particular, Pietrafesa.
“There’s going to be no better feeling than when we take the title from [JMU] at their home field,” Pietrafesa said.
A conference title would bring Pietrafesa’s remarkable career full-circle. It would also validate a year where it seems as though Hofstra is fielding its best squad in years. With the energy and spirit humming around this team, anything less than a CAA championship feels like a bust.
“As long as our pitchers keep rolling, we’re going to have their backs and we’re going to hit bombs,” she said.
Pietrafesa isn’t always the loudest person on the field, and she has admitted to not being too much of a vocal leader.
“I prefer to lead by example,” Pietrafesa said.
But make no mistake: she’s making her mark on the program game after game. The hits keep coming, the runs keep scoring and the wins keep coming, with Hofstra currently riding a 10-game win streak.
Hofstra fans better sit up and pay close attention to No. 14 when she’s digging in, or chasing down a fly ball in right field.
Because there’s only a few games left to watch Pietrafesa – one of the best to patrol Bill Edwards Stadium in recent memory – try to add one more CAA crown to the trophy case.