NCAA Softball: Danes’ MacFawn realizes her dream

While boarding the bus to University Park Wednesday in the SEFCU Arena parking lot, University at Al
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While boarding the bus to University Park Wednesday in the SEFCU Arena parking lot, University at Albany freshman pitcher Brittany MacFawn proudly found a spot for her Boston Red Sox “pillow pet.”

That wouldn’t be so unusual if the 5-foot-5 right-hander was a softball product of the Northeast. Instead, she’s a graduate of Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Fla.

“I always wanted to go up north, and I’ve always liked the cold weather,” said MacFawn, the Great Danes’ ace pitcher who is not afraid of following a different path.

The Great Danes will need her fiery, independent spirit when they travel to Penn State’s Nittany Lion Softball Park to face the 13th-ranked Oregon Ducks in the NCAA reg­ional softball tournament Friday at 2:30 p.m. Also in the four-team field is Fordham.

“The reason I’m a Boston Red Sox fan is that my father, Tim, is from Boston, and he is a big Red Sox fan,” she said with a smile.

MacFawn, whose brilliant schol­astic career included a 70-12 record, 773 strikeouts, a 0.83 earned-run average and six career no-hitters, can’t wait for the first pitch of the NCAA tournament.

“It’s a dream come true for me. This is something I’ve worked for since I was 10 years old,” she said.

MacFawn’s style of pitching is as unusual as her college choice. She left the warm weather of Florida for the unpredictable weather of upstate New York with an “out” pitch not normally seen in this region.

“My best pitch is a screwball,” she said. “It’s more popular down south than it is up here. I recently learned how to throw a drop ball, as well, and that’s a pitch you normally see around here.”

MacFawn said her screwball reacts much like a baseball pitcher would throw it, even though she throws under-handed.

“It bears in to a right-hander, and it’s quite effective,” she said. “It’s definitely my out pitch, and it’s the pitch I get most of my strikeouts from.”

MacFawn, who calls her velocity average, has fanned 140 batters in 150.1 innings. She has a 15-6 record with a 2.14 ERA. Opponents are batting just .221 against her, and she has 14 complete games and one no-hitter so far in her rookie collegiate season.

“My original coach back home was Dana Mullins, and he helped me develop all my pitches,” MacFawn said. “Now, I work with [UAlb­any assistant] Jack Coons. Both of my coaches are similar in that they worked with what I had instead of trying to change me too much.”

MacFawn said she is more excited than nervous about her first NCAA tournament assignment.

“I’m just happy to be here,” said the 2009 Central Florida Female Athlete of the Year and three-time Florida all-state selection. “I know that even if I don’t have my best stuff, we have other good pitchers on our staff, and I know my entire team is behind me.”

UAlbany (28-21) will be making its fourth appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Great Danes became the first team in program history to win an NCAA tourn­ament game at the Division I level in 2007.

UAlbany is hitting .353 as a team and is paced by Gina Mason with a .420 average, five home runs and 29 RBI. Other top hitters include Andrianna Wakraven (.329, 3 HR, 20 RBI) and Jessica Bergin (.278, 4 HR, 19 RBI).

The Great Danes’ other main pitchers are Brittany Schweiger (8-9, 2.20 ERA) and Allie Weiser (5-6, 2.90 ERA).

Oregon is led by senior hurler Brittany Rumfelt, who lifted the Ducks to a 5-0 win over defending national champion UCLA in their Pacific 10 finale last Saturday. The Ducks (39-14) finished third overall in the Pac-10 standings.

Fordham (41-17), the Atlantic 10 Conference champ, takes on Penn State (27-22) in the other first-round game in the double-elim­ination event. The Nittany Lions earned an at-large bid out of the Big Ten Conference.

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