If it becomes a special season for the Bordentown High softball team, there’s a good chance April 7 can be considered the day the tone was set.
In winning the first Rancocas Valley Elite Tournament title in program history, the Scotties took a 7-3 semifinal win over Gloucester Institute of Technology and a 4-0 victory over RV. Emerging as Most Valuable Player was junior pitcher Bella Pisapia, who struck out all six batters she faced in relief against GCIT, and pitched a two-hitter (both bunts) with 13 strikeouts against the Red Devils.
And as any softball fan knows, success starts in the circle.
“She came into that final game lights out,” coach Nicole O’Leary said. “Against GCIT they started to get to our other pitcher in the top of the fifth. Bella came in—six batters, six strikeouts. We knew RV would be a tough game because they’re in our conference, and she just came in with full confidence. Her adrenaline was going and she was ready for it. She was hitting her spots, her speed was up, she was composed and she threw a great game.”
Pisapia felt it was atonement for a sub-par effort in a loss to RV last year.
“That kind of got my confidence up,” she said. “Last year against RV I didn’t do too well so coming out and doing that against them this year helps me. It shows how much I’ve improved and stuff.”
Much of that improvement came from the neck up.
“I think it’s just confidence,” Pisapia said. “When I go out to the mound it’s just trusting myself, trusting my pitches, the pitch calling, the defense, kind of just going with what I’ve got.”
She’s got a lot, as her arsenal of pitches include the fastball, change-up, drop, screwball, curve and rise ball. Making Pisapia even more effective is her ability to move the ball in or out, up and down.
“She comes in quick but she has a change,” O’Leary said. “She’s an all-around pitcher with many different throws.”
Pisapia started her career on the other side of the plate, as she began as a catcher in her first year of travel ball with the 8U Jersey Bandits.
“I was a catcher for the longest time,” she said. “I actually thought I was going to catch instead of pitch. I started pitching when I was 10. I wasn’t good. I couldn’t throw a strike.”
Pisapia decided to take pitching lessons with former Steinert standout Jackie Sasko (now coaching at Georgian Court) at age 11. Two years later she moved on to Ralph Carrullo in Warminster, Pennsylvania, and is still with him.
From ages 10 to 13, Pisapia both caught and pitched before finally focusing on pitching.
“It was such a hard decision because I liked both so much,” she said. “But catching was just boring for me. As I started to progress in pitching I got worse in catching. It just happened. I kind of just fell in love with pitching. I like being in control, having the ball and dictating what happens.”
Pisapia comes from an athletic family. Her father Dominick and uncle Marcello both played soccer for Steinert and her brother Dominick played soccer for the Scotties. She also has a younger brother.
“They’re tough on me,” she said. “But it’s tough love.”
Pisapiaa’s travel career has progressed nicely, going from the Bandits to the New Jersey Flames in Hazlet and now the New Jersey Pride in Fairfield. She played in several showcases with the Pride and has drawn interest from Division I schools. And while she understands that travel ball is a necessary evil if one hopes to play at the next level, Pisapia finds playing with the Scotties more entertaining.
“I love high school ball, it’s my favorite time of the year,” she said. “You have something to play for. In travel you play for that scholarship, but it’s very nerve wracking. High school can be nerve wracking at times but you have a group of girls you go to school with and you have that championship to play for. A lot of us have played together. I played with Michaela (Luyber), Mackenza (Goleniecki), Bella (Marino).”
As a freshman, Pisapia never saw the circle as Rider-bound Debra Jones had the position locked down. Her bat got her in the lineup, however, as she hit .362 with 18 runs scored.
“She’s a pitcher first, but she’s a good offensive player so she’ll always be in the lineup,” O’Leary said. “She may see time in the outfield and at second base this year.”
That’s just fine with Pisapia, who said, “I don’t care where I play on the field as long as I’m on the field. I like hitting. I think it’s the best thing about playing softball. It kind of keeps you in check. It’s a stress reliever, it calms me down sometimes. But I’m a pitcher first.”
She proved that last year when she inherited the No. 1 pitcher’s job and went 11-9 with a 2.06 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 129 innings. She hit .306 with three doubles and 10 RBI. Not great, but not bad.
“It definitely wasn’t my best,” Pisapia said. “I think pitching high school ball is a lot different than travel. You don’t play as many games in a week, so I think it was more kind of adjusting and getting used to that. Then again, I wasn’t feeling what I was doing wrong. I was always told in lessons ‘Hey you need to do this with your curveball or do this with your rise.’ But now as a junior, being older I can feel certain things I’m doing wrong. Recently I’ve been recording myself and just tweaking everything I see wrong. So I guess that kind of helps me grow.”
Through Bordentown’s 7-1 start this year (the loss coming in a rematch with RV), Pisapia was 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 31 innings. She was batting .370 with two doubles, a triple, home run and five RBI.
O’Leary sees a big difference in her hurler since freshman year.
“She grows every year as a pitcher and a player,” the coach said. “That definitely helps us. That goes with age and time.”
Pisapia has also become extremely focused on the rubber.
“When Bella steps on the mound Bella is in her zone,” O’Leary said. “She is very composed but very driven in what she’s doing, which is a good thing. Sometimes a pitcher needs to block out the nonsense that could go on around her. But off the field she is definitely an outgoing person. She has a great personality; is very friendly with all of the girls She can be a leader and pump everybody up but she can also learn from our leaders and our captains.”
Pisapia spreads that joyful personality all around, as she is a member of the BTHS Yearbook Committee, Faith Hope & Charity, Student Council and Homecoming Committee. She is piling up the activities to make her attractive to colleges beyond softball.
“I’m still kind of looking around,” she said. “When I decide what to do then I can decide where I want to go. But I definitely want to go D-I for softball.”
Judging by the interest she has received so far, that shouldn’t be a problem.