Three weeks after his induction into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Hofstra head softball coach Bill Edwards still remains touched by the 24 current and former Pride players that attended the ceremony, and that is not the only reason for him to be beaming as a new decade dawns. The 21st-year Hofstra head coach is excited about the future of his program following the recent signings of three solid hitters and how his current team came together in the fall season in preparation for a 2010 campaign he hopes will end in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last year.
In his two decades in Hempstead Edwards has been able to recruit top notched talent that have helped turn Hofstra into a nationally recognized program that defeated number-one ranked UCLA in 2000, reached the NCAA regional finals three times and captured 11 straight conference titles from 1998-2008. Edwards is confident that the three players who comprise his 2011 recruiting class will help continue Hofstra's recent string of success. The trio of future Hofstra players includes a pair of infielders from New Jersey in Nicole Hagerty and Jessica Zeilman along with utility player Tori Rocha from Rehoboth, Mass.
"The three players who committed to us we have been tracking since the ninth or 10th grade," said Edwards. "Every time we see them play they are getting better."
Hagerty was named to the Newark Star-Ledger All-South Jersey team last year after leading Gloucester Catholic to a South Jersey championship. Edwards said Hagerty could replace senior Michele DePasquale at first base in 2011 and that she has been in communication with the veteran Hofstra player to get tips for preparing for the collegiate level. "She is a very talented player who has played at a very high level," said Edwards of Hagerty, who plays summer ball for the Jersey Inferno.
Zeilman, who can play either first base or third base, helped lead Delsea Regional to the South Jersey Group III title with a .551 average. "She gets in there and hacks at it,” said Edwards of Zeilam, who was MVP in the NSA New Jersey state championship game last year and also plays summer ball for the Jersey Outlaws.
Rocha batted .473 for Dighton-Rehoboth and helped her team to a South Coast Conference title. Edwards described Rocha as a classic utility player who can play infield or outfield in addition to having a strong bat. "She is so versatile," said Edwards of Rocha, who is also a member of the Rhode Island Thunder summer ball team.
The signings of Hagerty, Zeilman and Rocha came after a fall season where Edwards tried to bring seven new players up to speed on what it takes to play Hofstra softball with numerous practices and exhibition games against Rutgers, St. John's, Long Island University and Caldwell College. One of these newcomers is former St. John the Baptist ace pitcher Olivia Galati, who has quickly adjusted to the college level both on the field and in the classroom, where she earned a 4.0 grade point average in the fall semester.
"All indications are that she has the physical tools but the thing we like most about her is her mental makeup," said Edwards of Galati, who led St. John the Baptist to three New York State titles.
Hofstra begins its quest to return to the NCAA Tournament on Feb. 19 at the USF/Wilson Invitational against North Dakota State. Edwards is hoping that his returning players will use not winning the Colonial Athletic Association title last year as incentive to return the program to national prominence.
"There is a motivation to not let this happen again," said Edwards of Hofstra not winning a conference title for the first time a dozen years in 2009. "We want to start another streak."