TROY — Whether she’s in the softball pitcher’s circle or on the bowling center approach, Olivia DeCitise’s speedy underhand deliveries help make her one of the most dominant multiple-sport athletes in Section II.
The left-handed junior pitcher is one of the key reasons why Troy (20-2) has advanced to the NYSPHSAA Class A final four against Vestal on Long Island on Saturday , when she will make her second state championship appearance of the year. She also competed in the NYSPHSAA Girls’ Bowling Championships, although she rolled for the boys’ team during the regular season, since the Flying Horses didn’t have a girls’ program.
DeCitise is a two-way threat for Troy’s powerful softball squad. She owns an 18-2 record as a pitcher to go along with an earned run average of roughly 1.20. Remarkably, she’s struck out 295 batters so far this season. She also hits third in the lineup and carries a batting average of well over .400.
DeCitise was an excellent pitcher last year, but an offseason training schedule helped her elevate her game to an even loftier level in 2022.
“Over the winter, I was practicing three days a week with my Fusion travel team. I was lifting, hitting and pitching all in the same day. We started at 6:30, and we would get out around 10,” she said. “I was lifting four days a week outside with my dad, and three other days with my Fusion team.”
Although pitchers need strong arms, DeCitise focused more on her leg strength.
“I lifted a good amount of weight with my legs. I’m a legs pitcher. I don’t focus on my arms that much. My arms aren’t there to do all the work,” DeCitise said. “Also, I think that my bowling does help me. I use a 15-pound ball, and it definitely helps my legs. In bowling, I roll the ball about 17-18 mph, and it’s more my legs pushing the ball through.”
DeCitise, who’s been clocked at around 60 mph while pitching, uses five pitches to baffle her opponents — a curveball, screwball, changeup, rise ball and drop curve.
“I’m not that concerned with how fast I throw in terms of speed. I just worry about the movement of my pitches and my accuracy,” she said. “During the season, I don’t lift weights. I haven’t really had any arm difficulties. I do get sore sometimes, but no injuries.”
The Suburban Council Pitcher of the Year struck out a Section II-record 27 batters in a 12-inning game with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake this season. She has an amazing streak of 23 straight games with at least 10 strikeouts. In the regional final this past Saturday, she belted a three-run homer, went 4 for 4 and struck out 16.
Troy’s sixth-year coach Sean Geisel and his veteran staff of Michele French, Dave Fenrich and Tara Anthony field a team that’s solid defensively, and the Flying Horses, winners of 17 straight games, have plenty of big bats, including Olivia Ashline, Emma Thompson, Ava Salvaggio and Katie Pryor.
But, DeCitise is the key.
“The statistics speak for themselves to how dominant she’s been,” Geisel said. “She works hard every day and does the right thing. She’s a competitor. She’s bounced back time and time again from a big hit to limit the other team’s rallies. She has a strong mental mindset. I couldn’t be more proud of her and the team.”
Geisel said that DeCitise’s repertoire is pretty standard at this level.
“But, what separates her is throwing all of her pitches for strikes in any count,” he said. “Liv and her catcher [Kierra Laranjo] are on the same page in terms of mixing it up. They find a way to get the job done. I’d say Liv throws just as hard as anyone we’ve seen in Section II. But locating those pitches is just as important. She goes after hitters with first-pitch strikes.
“As a hitter, she’s in the middle of the lineup and is a tough out. She’ll take a walk when necessary, but she’s especially tough when we need a big hit.”
JUST AS STRONG ON LANES
Geisel is equally as talented on the bowling lanes. She averaged 213 for the Troy boys’ team and then earned a spot on the girls’ state team.
“It was a hard decision to try to make the girls’ state team, but my coach said to go and try to make the team,” DeCitise said. “It was so much fun. It’s been great going to states in two different sports this year.”
DeCitise’s expertise on the lanes has been noticed by Eric Morrett, a bowling coach and the director of the Capital District Challenge League, which bowls every Tuesday night with a strong group of adult and junior scratch bowlers at Del Lanes all year long.
“I’ve known Olivia for about 15 months, and she has developed her physical and mental game skill sets a considerable amount during that time,” Morrett said. “She took on a significant restructuring of her bowling physical game in the spring of 2021 through the winter months. Each step of the process she viewed it as a challenge and a way to improve.”
“Olivia’s natural athleticism and talent for sports is easily seen by anyone who watches her play. She’s capable of throwing scouts [fallen pins] across the pin deck in bowling and hitting 250-foot home runs over the fence in softball, but I believe it’s her intangible qualities, which are not seen on the stat sheet, that have made the biggest difference season for her and her teams,” he added.
DeCitise carries a 94 academic average through the first three quarters of this school year, and her favorite subject is math. She said she’s having a tough time trying to decide whether she will try to obtain a college scholarship in bowling, at a powerhouse like Nebraska, or in softball.