July 25, 2008 / Sports

Panthers stay hungry - Talented squad hosts college showcase at Wagner

The Brooklyn Paper

As one more college showcase remains on their schedule, the New York Panthers’ fast pitch softball team is preparing to wind down their sizzling summer season.

But before they do that, they were in Staten Island, last week, hosting a college showcase at Wagner College. Seeing that they are on a traveling squad, living on the clothes that are packed tightly in a suitcase and not getting some home cooking, last week was a chance for the team to get as close to playing at home as possible. For six of the dozen players on the 16-and-under “blue” team roster, Staten Island was as close as it got to Brooklyn.

With a mix of talent from the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA) and the Public School’s Athletic League (PSAL), the makeup of the team definitely has the Brooklyn touch. The team features pitcher Vicki Capozucca (Poly Prep), shortstop and pitcher Erica Sollazzo (Poly Prep), shortstop and second baseman Brittany O’Brien (Madison), catcher Casey Sclafani (St. Edmund’s Prep), third baseman Nicolette Sinagra (New Utrecht), and second baseman and outfielder Liza Nunez (Bishop Ford). Not only is the talent of the team at a high caliber pace, but all of the “Brooklyn Six” are starters on this team.

But Head Coach John Pisano, who also hails from Brooklyn, says that his team is willing and able to go anywhere and play any team, as long as the tough competition is there.

“Our kids will travel to where the best competition is. Now we are at a level, where some of our girls that want to go on to play on the college level and go to these showcases, where the college scouts are. So, traveling is something that they love to do.”

However, softball is not his sole focus of coaching this team; rather is to get these young ladies prepared for what he calls the “realities of life.”

“Here, we prepare them for life. This is an experience where they bond together, live together, and play together. Whether they go on to play college softball or not, so be it. But it is life realities is what we are trying to prepare them for,” said Pisano.

As for the prospects of college, and possibly a coveted spot on the U.S. Olympic team, New Utrecht Lady Utes and Panthers third baseman Nicolette Sinagra puts it the best:

“We all hope to play in college but, a pro career, I don’t know about that. I just don’t think anyone here is a Jenny Finch yet.”

Even though these traveling showcases are for the college scouts, they are definitely considered learning experiences for the players.

“We go so far and to so many places. Personally, I have been to places that I have never been to before,” said St. Edmunds Prep and Panthers catcher Casey Sclafani.

With the glaring eye of college scouts and recruiters, the pressure and the level of play just has to catch up to you, doesn’t it? Not for these girls.

“Although I take the spotlight into consideration, I just try to pitch as well as I can all of the time,” said Poly Prep lady Blue Devils and Panthers pitcher Vicki Capozucca.

Added fellow Panthers and lady Blue Devils pitching teammate Erica Sollazzo: “I try to keep the same level of intensity no matter where I go. But the spotlight definitely helps me perform better and you just try to put it in the back of your head and do the best you can.”

Even though college is something on the minds of these sophomores and juniors in high school, it is the valuable time to practice in the summer to better hone their skills of the game for the upcoming season.

“Here, you just learn so much. I just think that this takes much more dedication than anything. I just become a better player by doing this,” said Madison lady Knights and Panthers shortstop and second basemen Brittany O’Brien.

But the consensus of the players is that the competition and talent is so much better, which in return makes their play better.

“It is more intense, there is so much competition our there than there is in the Catholic League,” said Bishop Ford lady Falcon and Panthers second baseman and outfielder Liza Nunez.

Added Capozucca: “It is really different, it is more competition and it just so intense out there.”


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