After a whirlwind summer of travel and visits to schools across the country, Avon Grove pitcher Maggie Balint has given a verbal to continuing her softball career at the University of Oregon, joining a perennial top-10 program.
“There were things at pretty much every school I visited that I liked,” said Balint. “But in the end, Oregon had what I wanted academically, head coach Mike White might be the best pitching coach in the country, and I’ll be in a program that will have me in position to pitch in the College World Series.”
White was considered one of the very best windmillers in the world during his own fast pitch career, earning induction in the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame. Since taking over the reins of the Oregon program, the Ducks have thrived. Oregon has won three straight Pac-12 titles and reached the College Softball World Series three of the past four years.
“He was a great fast pitch pitcher himself, and as a coach he’s produced a ton of All-Americans,” said Balint. “I know I’ll be able to learn a lot from him.”
Balint finished the 2015 regular season with an earned run average of 0.36, then rang up 50 strikeouts in four District 1 playoff games. She struck out opposing hitters 303 times in 2014, bringing her total to 951 in just three seasons. She held the opposition to a miniscule .106 batting average. Most importantly, Balint cut down on walks, issuing just 36 free passes in 162 innings of work.
“There is no one in the area that works as hard as Maggie,” said Joe Spina, president of the Chaos softball club, and head coach of its gold team. “She has a work ethic atypical of a girl her age. She’ll stay in the gym and put in whatever it takes for her to be the best she can be.”
Balint is a fireballer, regularly hitting 65-67 on the radar gun, a number that in and of itself would put her in the upper echelon of pitchers.
“She throws hard, but she’s also really learned her craft,” said Spina. “She’s really become a complete pitcher, getting command of all her pitches. She also has the mental toughness it takes to be great. She always wants the ball in the pressure situations. Add it all up and you have the reason why elite softball schools like Oregon wanted her.”
After being the recipient for the Gatorade Player of the Year Award in Pennsylvania in consecutive years, the two-time Daily Local News Player of the Year began her recruitment campaign, sending out highlight videos across the country.
“It really got rolling when I took the trip with Chaos to play in the Independence Day tournament in Boulder, CO,” said Balint.
Chaos, led by Balint and her catcher, Rustin’s Anna Steinmentz, became the first team from the Northeast to reach the finals of the tournament.
“Right after that tournament, I got fifteen offers from all over the country,” said Balint. “But for some reason, none from the northeast.”
In the end, it came down to five schools: Missouri, the University of California, Texas A&M, Minnesota and Oregon.
“It was crazy at the end,” said Balint. “I flew to four different states in two weeks, meeting with coaches, hanging out with girls on the team, seeing facilities, and going to some football games.”
In addition to the coaching staff, Oregon had great facilities, including a brand new field in Jane Sanders Stadium, set to open next spring.
“The facilities are great,” said Balint, who will major in communications, with an aim to get into broadcasting and coaching following her collegiate career. “There’s even a new academic facilities geared towards athletes, helping with tutors and whatever other needs athletes might have.”
But before she dons the green and gold of Oregon, there’s still some unfinished business she’d like to take care of while wearing the maroon and gold of Avon Grove.
“I want to win another Ches-Mont title to make it three straight for our team,” said Balint. “I want to see us get into districts again, and once you get in, anyone can win. And I’d still like to think we can compete for and win a state championship.”
For right now, though, there’s no rest for the weary. Balint will get right back into training to be the best possible pitcher she can be. But she knows that isn’t a solo act.
“My parents and my family have been amazing in their support, and I can never thank them enough for all they’ve done for me,” said Balint. “And I want to thank Joe Spina and all of the people at Chaos, as well as all my teammates for bringing me where I am.”