Alyssa DiCarlo “a stud” at the plate for Georgia softball

Georgia infielder Alyssa DiCarlo (8) during the Bulldogs’ game against Presbyterian in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. (Cory A. Cole/UGA Sports Communications)

Alyssa DiCarlo took eight steps — the same number stitched on the back of her jersey — to get into a spot she knows very well: the right-handed batter’s box. She received a 58-mile-per-hour pitch down the middle. DiCarlo locked her eyes on the ball, her front foot charged to the front of the box, and her bat made full contact, sending the ball over the wall in center field.

 

While DiCarlo’s smile swept across her face, her University of Georgia teammates barreled out of the dugout and crowded around home plate. Once both of her feet hopped onto home plate, a joyous reunion erupted over the cheers of the fans there for UGA’s 8-0 win over Presbyterian. That feeling, hitting a ball over the fence, is DiCarlo’s favorite feeling, and one she says that never gets old.

The graduation last spring of Tina Iosefa (who led the nation in RBIs in 2016 with 87), Alex Hugo and Kaylee Puailoa took a lot of that home run feeling away from the UGA lineup. The team now looks to DiCarlo, who led the nation’s freshmen last season with 63 RBIs, to fill those holes.

“She’s a stud,” Georgia head coach Lu Harris-Champer says.

Heading into the Southeastern Conference opening series this weekend against Kentucky, DiCarlo leads the Bulldogs (24-3) with eight home runs.

UGA coaches noticed DiCarlo’s ability early. She visited campus in February of 2012 — as a ninth grader.

Four years later, DiCarlo started every game at third base as a UGA freshman, recording 75 hits, 43 runs, and the fourth-highest batting average on the team (.371).

When she’s waiting on the next pitch, she rests her game face to take a deep breath. She’s goofy on the field in between plays, talking and laughing with freshman shortstop Ciara Bryan or laughing at a fan catching a hard-hit foul ball. She never lets technique crowd her mind.

“You have to love it to play in college. I just love playing, and I am just super goofy. That’s just me,” DiCarlo says.

Last season, DiCarlo earned spots on both first-team all-SEC and SEC all-freshman teams while UGA reached the Women’s College World Series. To open this season, DiCarlo had three home runs, seven hits, nine RBIs, and five runs in five games of the Red and Black Showcase.

“I do the same thing every time I go up to bat. I try not to think about mechanics and stuff like that,” DiCarlo says.

Although coaches look to her to fill those power-hitting spots, DiCarlo also wants to become a leader — even if she’s just a sophomore.

“I want to try harder…not (just) try harder…but be a better leader so they [underclassmen] can come to me,” DiCarlo says.

That effort to be a better leader already touched Bryan. Bryan and DiCarlo display an obvious bond on the field, a relationship between a third baseman and shortstop, with smiles, laughter, and constant communication.

“She’s someone I can trust, I can go to her about anything on and off the field. She’s like my sister,” Bryan says.

The power behind DiCarlo’s bat comes from her love of competition with all athletes. At Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Arizona, she remembers boys telling her how easy it was to hit a softball. People flocked to football or baseball games, while the bleachers at her games were largely empty.

“They just didn’t get it. Boys didn’t get it. You don’t understand how much of a big deal this is,” DiCarlo says.

She paired up with other power hitters at practice and tried to out-hit them in order to push herself. She often stayed until someone forced her to leave so that they can could turn the lights off.

“She was always asking for extra balls, or wanting us to hit her more, or wanting us to practice longer,” says Michele Fantin, who coached DiCarlo at Mountain Ridge.

During many a batting practice, 43 feet (the distance between home plate and the pitching rubber) and a black screen separated DiCarlo from Fantin. They cast the only mid-afternoon shadows on the red dirt of the Mountain Ridge softball field, as the rest of the team shagged balls beyond the outfield fence.

If Fantin pitched 50 balls to DiCarlo, she would hit at least 25 out of the park.

“Every time, she acted like she was shocked,” Fantin says.

Even today, when she hits a ball out of UGA’s Jack Turner Stadium, she watches the ball until it clears the fence, as if she’s not sure it will. When it does, she turns her gaze toward home, anticipating her favorite moment — the celebration.

The Grady Sports Bureau is part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

 

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