Seton Hall’s Muoio hit a homer to remember
Marissa Muoio stepped up to the plate, took a deep breath, and threw the bat over her shoulder. Hitting a softball has always been the weakest part of her game, but each new at bat is another chance to prove her worth. “Just be aggressive,” she told herself. “Make contact.”
The game of softball has been a major part of Muoio’s everyday life since she was in seventh grade, and even now as a junior in college, not much has changed. She is still a catcher and she is still known for her defensive prowess, though many do not often talk about her bat.
Muoio, who plays for the Seton Hall women’s softball team, is just a career .120 hitter, having hit safely just three times in 25 career at bats prior to this season, including a hitless 2010. With all signs pointing toward Junior catcher Nicole Loewenstein and her lively bat as the 2011 starter, things looked as bleak as ever for Muoio entering the season.
Typically known as the team’s source of comic relief, Muoio, a walk-on from Cedar Grove, N.J., has struggled to make an impact on the field, but has not missed a beat when it comes to keeping her teammates up.
“I try to keep the atmosphere light,” Mouio said. “My team does well when they are happy, so I like to keep the atmosphere loose.”
Muoio, a speech pathology major who hopes to someday work as a speech pathologist in a school, began her softball career in seventh grade when, according to her, the coach moved her from first base to catcher because she was the only kid on the team who could reach second base with her throws. From that point forward, she never changed positions.
In 2008, when Muoio was a senior at Mount St. Dominic Academy, her coach contacted Seton Hall’s softball coach Ray Vander May to see if a try out was possible. According to Muoio, she was being recruited by some Division-II and Division-III schools, however they were not enticing enough to persuade her to attend.
After an email from Coach Vander May to her high school coach, Muoio was granted a try out and thus decided to attend Seton Hall.
“I didn’t know about it until my high school coach told me that Coach Vander May was giving me a try out,” Muoio said. “I was shocked especially because Seton Hall is a Division-I program.”
After a three day try out with four other potential walk-ons and the recruited scholarship players, Muoio received an email from Vander May which stated she had made the team. According to Muoio, the first few months on the team were very difficult.
“It’s funny because now I’m known as the loud one on the team, but for the first five months of school I never spoke,” she said. “I was in shock and just a little shy, but one day at practice I drank a Mountain Dew, and that’s when my real personality came out.”
According to Muoio, following the sugar induced turnaround to her personality, she has also made great strides with her hitting. This season, Muoio is batting .360 with 12 hits in 50 at bats and three runs batted in 11 games, a far cry from her statistics in her first two seasons.
“I’ve been trying to cure the flaws in my swing and fix the mental part of my hitting, not getting intimidated” said Muoio in regards to her workout regimen. “I’ve been working out in the weight room too, trying to get myself into good shape.”
As she stood at home plate waiting for the first pitch during this past Friday’s matchup with Manhattan College, Muoio just wanted to get something started. The game was tied at one apiece in the bottom of the sixth inning as she stood up to the plate against Manhattan’s Ashley Rampino with two outs.
“I just told myself that I had to be aggressive, take my cuts and see what happens,” Muoio said as she described her thought process at the plate. “I swung at the first pitch, really hard, and whiffed it. It probably looked like I had never swung a bat before in my life, but that’s what I needed to get myself ready.”
On the following pitch, Muoio connected with the ball and launched it over the left field wall for a home run to give her team a 2-1 lead. The home run, which hit off the bottom part of the scoreboard with a thud, was Muoio’s first career home run at any level of softball.
“I didn’t know it was gone, I was just running,” she said. “I was halfway to first base and heard it it tap the scoreboard, and I just sped around the bases as fast as I could. I was just so happy to hit it because I had never hit a home run before.”
As she rounded third base her teammates rushed out of the dugout to greet her at home plate. Although it is a relatively common practice in women’s softball, according to Muoio it was a moment she will never forget.
“We all run out to greet each other when someone hits a home run and I love running out there to do it,” she said. “It was my dream to be the girl who everyone was running out to meet, the one who touched home plate to score the run.”
For most softball players a solo home run is simply another run scored. On this day, however, for Muoio a home run was worth so much more.
“There are no words for the way I felt after hitting the home run,” Muoio said. “I was just so, so happy. It was an amazing feeling.”
John Lopiano can be reached at John.firstname.lastname@example.org