For most freshman athletes, expectations are usually low.
However, Seton Hall catcher Darby Pandolfo has not been just any freshman thus far, as she has been raising the bar with her veteran-like numbers.
The Massapequa, N.Y. native began her collegiate career with a bang through the team’s first three games this season. Pandolfo went 8-12 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs, leading the Pirates to three straight wins. Her blistering start to the season did not go unnoticed, as she was named Big East Player of the Week shortly after. She has since fallen back down to earth, hitting a solid .333 through 23 games.
For Pirate coach Paige Smith, there was never a question about Pandolfo’s talent.
“Darby is a gamer and is learning to hit at the college level at a very quick pace,” Smith said.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Pandolfo’s young season has not even been her spectacular bat, but her steady glove behind the plate. Even though she splits catching duties with sophomore Destini Peck, Pandolfo has yet to commit an error. She has also thrown out two runners in the process.
Since her early season tear, it is clear teams have taken notice of her bat and have prepared accordingly. Teams have scouted her as a key cog in the lineup, trying to learn more about her as a hitter. According to Smith, opposing pitchers will pitch around her more and more with time. As she develops at the plate, she will need to recognize this and become a more patient hitter.
Smith credited Pandolfo’s travel program and family for developing her into the promising young backstop she has become.
“She came from a travel program that really teaches the game well,” Smith said. “For the last eight years she has had great trainers and an incredibly supportive family.”
She also praised Pandolfo’s work ethic and character, pointing to those reasons as to why she has excelled so soon.
“She’s the kind of kid that never complains and only wants what is best for the team,” Smith said. “That comes from a background of great coaching and a fantastic family. All I have to do is not screw it up.”
One thing Smith said sticks out about Pandolfo is her commitment to being a student-athlete, in that order. According to Pandolfo, being a student first was the reason she came to SHU.
“It was exactly what I was looking for because I knew I could get a great education,” Pandolfo, a business major, said. “I wanted there to be more to my college experience than just being an athlete. But at the same time, as an athlete I could not ask for anything more.”
Although the season is young, Pandolfo has already made a name for herself not only as one of the best Pirates, but as one of the best in the Big East Conference. However, she is not concerned with personal accolades.
“I think we can do really well this season, maybe even win the Big East,” Pandolfo said. “I just really want to play my best and give it all I have.”
Andrew Lombardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Anlombardo8.