After her junior season came to and end, Bri Battavio knew she needed to be better.
The North Penn softball team hadn’t lived up to expectations and Battavio felt a lot of the blame rested on her shoulders. As the pitcher and No. 3 hitter in the lineup, Battavio felt like she could improve across the board and set out to do it.
With her senior season complete, the results speak for themselves.
Battavio went 14-6 posting a 2.15 ERA as she helped the Knights to a share of the Suburban One League Continental Conference title while batting .309 with five home runs and 19 RBI. For her efforts, Battavio has been named the Reporter/Times-Herald Softball Player of the Year.
“I felt like it was my fault because I was pitching and even though it’s a team sport, I felt like I was letting people down,” Battavio said. “During the offseason I really started to focus on my spin to get it more tight with more movement so I could get out pitches so instead of leaving it for people to hit, I put it out more.”
A four-year varsity player and three-year starter, Battavio played third base as a sophomore where she excelled as a lower-order hitter. Taking over in the circle as a junior, the right-hander learned the hitters she would face were able to keep up with her power and speed, so she would have to be the one to adjust.
Never a big strikeout pitcher anyway, Battavio adjusted her mentality and her stuff. Now, she would use the speed and techniques she had acquired and use them to her advantage. Hitters would no longer hit the pitches they wanted, they would be going after the pitches Battavio wanted them to go after.
“I’ve always naturally thrown harder so I had to focus more on my control of my pitches other than my fastball,” Battavio said. “Everybody caught up and I’m more of a pitcher where I’m going to get you to hit my pitch and you’re going to hit a ground ball or pop-up more than strike out off my pitch. I think I’m good at getting people to swing at what looks good to them, but it isn’t as good as they think it is.”
After her junior year ended, Battavio started working with Relentless Athletics on a tailor-made workout plan that included a lot of weightlifting. An admitted skeptic who thought intensive weight programs were more for guys, Battavio saw results very quickly even in things as simple as throwing overhand and underhand.
North Penn coach Rick Torresani saw Battavio’s drive during the offseason but once the season began, the Knights started 0-2 and the senior wasn’t hitting the spots she wanted. However, Battavio made the adjustments and North Penn ripped off 10 straight wins as the pitcher kept her upped velocity while also locating her pitches.
As a contact-inducing pitcher, Battavio relied plenty on her defense to make plays. This spring, the Knights infield featured two sophomores, a freshman and had a freshman behind the plate, so Battavio knew she would have to keep their confidence up during the season. That was especially true with the freshmen, who aren’t in the high school.
For catcher Amanda Greaney, it was a partnership Battavio had predicted a few years prior. One summer while she was helping run North Penn’s softball camp, Battavio told Greaney she would be the catcher when Battavio was pitching her senior year.
“Bri handled it really well and the freshman grew up really fast with a lot of it being Bri’s tutelage,” Torresani said. “With Amanda, Bri just talked to her about what she wanted and Amanda picked up on it very fast. Bri can be a tough pitcher to catch because her ball moves a lot. As Amanda got more in tune with Bri, we got better and better.”
After the 10-game streak, the Knights were drubbed 11-0 at home by Central Bucks South. Battavio called the loss a turning point in the season, showing everyone they weren’t as invincible as they thought and North Penn responded with an eight-game winning streak.
While the Knights lost their final game of the regular season, there was little doubt that Battavio was playing her best as the postseason began. Indeed, the senior was terrific in the playoffs, even in a 1-0 loss to Perk Valley and Battavio felt like her game had elevated.
“I was getting very into a groove,” Battavio said. “At the beginning of the season, I was walking people, not hitting my spots and it’s something, for me, the more I pitch, the better and more consistent I get. I was in such a different mindset, almost a killer mindset because as a senior, you never want to go home. I didn’t want to lose.”
On top of her pitching role, Battavio also wanted to be an impact offensive player. She called her junior year the worst she’s ever had as a hitter and put in plenty of work to bring her bat around as well. Her goal was to hit at least .300 for the season but also make the right read and get the best outcome for each situation.
Battavio credited her father, Sam, for being a constant source of support and coaching and for helping to instill the mental confidence that sometimes is more important than physical ability.
“My dad would always help me with that and I would always talk to myself,” Battavio said. “I’d always tell myself ‘you can do this,’ and that’s what I told the girls. I felt like if I told them that, they would follow. I felt like we fed off each other and for that, I have to give a lot of the credit to my teammates.”
That extended to the defensive side as well.
“We had one close game where I think there was a runner on third base with one out, we called a timeout and our second baseman, Jordan (Pietrzykoski) just said ‘we’ve got you, we’ll make the plays’ and we ended up getting out of it,” Battavio said. “For her to step up as a sophomore to say that, I’ll never forget that. That’s an awesome teammate and somebody you want on your team and it was like that with all of them.”
Battavio will continue her career at Monmouth, where she is expecting to play third base but added she’d be willing to do anything asked in order to see time on the field right away.
“If she continues to develop the mental part of the game, the physical part will be fine because she’s always been a hard worker, it’s the mental part of the game,” Torresani said. “If she continues to get better at that mental part and realize it’s not 80 or 90 percent, it’s 100 percent most of the time, she’ll do well in college.”
Top Photo: North Penn’s Bri Battavio leaps and lets out a yell after throwing the final pitch of the Knights’ victory over Central Bucks South during their game on Thursday, May 11, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)