The Academy of Notre Dame junior catcher and cleanup hitter, a first team All-InterAc selection at shortstop the past two years, is on pace for more than 40 RBI’s this spring, leads the Irish in extra-base hits and RBI’s, and has three grand slams as of May 15. Last year, she had 40 RBI’s and a 1.035 slugging percentage in a 16-game season. She moved from shortstop to catcher this season as Notre Dame’s starting catcher has been out with an injury. The past two years, she has been an NFCA All-American Scholar Athlete, is a member of the National Honor Society, finished first at the PJAS State Science Fair in 2015 and 2016, and won the National Spanish Exam Silver Award.
Q: As a catcher, can you pick up clues to what to throw to a hitter after she’s come to the plate a couple of times in a game? Can you give an example of how this has worked in your favor?
A: Depending on the hitter, sometimes you can know what to throw right when they step in the box. Depending on where the batter is standing, you know if she is looking for the inside or outside pitch or sometimes batters are just terrified of our pitcher, Grace Jackson. Grace is so much fun to catch since she loves to strategize. Between innings, we always talk about what we’re going to do when we face certain hitters again. Seeing a hitter after a few at bats is like a safeguard in case Grace and I were wrong the first time. Sometimes we think they will struggle with her screwball but then they drive it to left field. So then, we make an adjustment and usually get them the next time.
Q: How do you see your on-field leadership role as a catcher? Is it much different than your on-field leadership role as a shortstop?
A: As a catcher, I’m usually directing where the ball should be thrown, especially from the outfield and cut off plays. Behind the plate, I can see more of what’s going on, so I am able to see the field better than at shortstop, making it easier to make decisions. I also get to call certain plays or change the defense as catcher, which is a lot of fun.
Q: What did you find was the greatest challenge switching from shortstop to catcher?
A: Switching from shortstop to catcher was not very hard. I have been catching since third grade and only started playing shortstop my freshman year. I was still practicing as a catcher and shortstop while Anita Bilotta was catching earlier this season up until she got injured, so I was ready.
Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What part of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: The strongest part of my game is situational awareness. I have been on the field since I could walk, sitting in the dugout of my older brother’s games as a toddler, so softball is something I understand inside and out. It is easy to work on hitting and fielding mechanics but field awareness and the ability to make split second decisions only comes with experience. Without my field awareness, I would not be the player I am today. Right now I am focusing on my hitting and keeping my swing in line in preparation for my summer season with my travel team.
Q: Of the three grand slams you’ve hit this season, you said the one against Agnes Irwin stands out most in your memory. Can you describe the situation (the count, the pitch, whether you knew upon contact that it was a home run, etc.)
A: I had already hit a solo home run the inning before, and the at bat right after you hit a home run is always the most daunting. You know the pitcher is going to be careful about what she is going to throw to you, but at the same time you feel like you’re unbeatable since you just hit a home run. That at bat is the one where you have to be the most careful that the pitcher doesn’t beat you, but also that you don’t beat yourself with a big ego. We were winning 1-0 and I was walking up with the bases loaded after just hitting a home run, so the pressure was on. I made myself forget about my last at bat and was able to just do it again. The pitcher threw me the same pitch so I was able to capitalize on it.
Q: What (in your opinion) has been the highlight of your Academy of Notre Dame softball career to date? Can you share that memory with us?
A: Hitting the first ever home run at the new softball field freshman year was pretty cool. I got to share the experience with Anita Bilotta, who hit a home run the inning after. I remember taking an extremely awkward picture with her after the game at home plate with us both holding our bats and home run balls. At the time, we barely knew each other so it’s funny to look back at how uncomfortable we both were.
Q: Who have been your biggest softball mentors, and what was the most important thing each of them taught you?
A: My coach, Jen Carlo, freshman year at NDA has been one of my biggest mentors in softball. She really helped me develop my skills dealing with the mental part of the game which is huge. She taught me the importance of staying cool and how to think when you’re up at the plate. My travel coach for PA Vypers Gold, Susan Spiegel, has been another amazing mentor. I just started playing for her this past August, and her positivity on and off the field as well as the love she has for the game and her players has changed how I view softball and its role in my life. My current NDA coach, Carl Ellis, has encouraged me and has given me the freedom to grow as a leader of my team.
Q: What is your favorite ballpark, and why?
A: My favorite ballpark is Fenway Park. This summer I was up in Boston visiting colleges and we got tickets to a Red Sox game. The atmosphere there was incredible. There was just an energy there from the history behind the field, the love of the game shared by everyone and the excitement that you can’t find at most other ballparks.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation the day of a game.
A: Recently, I started wearing pigtails for games and since then, we have beaten Penn Charter and Agnes Irwin both twice. Usually I have to do them sometime during the school day since I never have enough time in the morning. Other than that, I just get my team and myself excited for the game.
-Q: You wear uniform jersey No. 27 for Academy of Notre Dame. Is there a reason you picked that number – does it have any significance to you?
A: Usually I’m No. 5, but my freshman year, one of the seniors had that number, so I took 27 because I like odd numbers and it was one of the last uniforms left for the freshmen who picked uniforms last. It worked out because Jennie Finch wears 27 also and she has been an amazing role model and ambassador for softball and helped to get softball back into the Olympics.
Q: What do you think you might like to major in at college? Is there a particular career path that interests you at the present time?
A: I love sciences including biology, anatomy and physics. I am considering a career in medicine.
Fun facts – Sophia Marlino
Favorite book: The Other Wes Moore.
Favorite author: J.K. Rowling.
Favorite TV show: Impractical Jokers.
Favorite movie: Life is Beautiful.
Favorite athlete: Serena Williams.
Favorite pre-game pump-up song: Hot Problems.
Favorite team: Temple men’s basketball.
Favorite place to visit: “Chatham, Cape Cod, and anywhere I can be with my family.”
Favorite pre-game meal: Wawa bagel with berry cream cheese.
Favorite color: Green.
Person I most admire: “Michelle Obama because she is an advocate and role model for girls in the USA and all over the world and embodies the essence of motherhood, strong moral character and dignity.”
Family members: parents Joe and Teresa, older brothers Joe and Andrew, younger brother Evan, Buster the dog, Katie the cat, Ben the hamster and 10 chickens.
(To be selected as Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by her coach.)