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Southmoreland pitcher Gatti ready for ACC challenge

| Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Jason Black | Daily Courier
Southmoreland senior AnnaMarie Gatti (seated, left) signs a letter of intent to continue her education and play softball at Syracuse University. Joining Gatti are her parents, Vincent and Rachel, and her sister Sophia.

When Southmoreland senior AnnaMarie Gatti began playing softball as a young child, she was not a pitcher. Her introduction to the sport was as an outfielder.

Things sure have changed for the hard-throwing right-hander.

On Thursday, Gatti signed a letter of intent to play softball at Syracuse on a full scholarship.

“I wanted to stay up north and I feel that Syracuse gives me the best opportunity to go to the (College Softball) World Series,” Gatti said.

Gatti added she fell in love with the school as well as the coaches and players on her initial visit to the campus several years ago.

Gatti spent her freshman and sophomore seasons at Greensburg Central Catholic before transferring to Southmoreland for her junior and senior years. She pitched for the Scotties last season, sharing time on the mound with Kristen Suhan.

“I like that I am in charge of the game,” Gatti said. “The ball is in my hand.”

Gatti, like so many other girls, began playing softball at a young age. But after spending some time playing in the outfield, it didn't take long for coaches to realize that she had something special.

“We knew right away that she could throw the ball hard,” said Scott Miller, Gatti's personal pitching coach. Miller has been working with Gatti since she was 8 years old. “She is dedicated and she works hard.”

Miller said Gatti has been clocked at 67 mph. Gatti struck out 66 last season for the Scotties (8-8). She hit .356 with nine RBIs.

“I think she should do well (at Syracuse),” Miller said. “She throws as hard as any girl in major college softball.”

The Orange went 23-29 in 2013, their final season in the Big East before joining the ACC.

According to Gatti, her role on the team will be to help build the program into a national power.

“There will be seven or eight pitchers when I get there, and she (Syracuse coach Leigh Ross) wants to build the program,” Gatti said. “She wants our school to be known as a softball school and I'm another piece of the puzzle.”

Kim Kelley coached Gatti at Southmoreland this past season. She knows what kind of player the Orange will be getting.

“Anna is a standout pitcher,” Kelley said. “She worked long and hard to make it to this point and this is a proud moment for her. (Syracuse) is getting a dedicated and strong athlete that will help their program. She loves to pitch, and you feel confident with her on the mound.”

Gatti knows she will face a lot of talented hitters at the Division I level. But she believes she'll be ready for that challenge.

“I've pitched against top teams and players,” said Gatti, who is currently playing for the Chicago-based Beverly Bandits in the Premier Girls Fastpitch League.

Gatti, who is leaning toward studying criminology at Syracuse, regularly travels to Chicago to practice and compete with the Bandits.

She is a pitcher who is not intimidated, no matter the level of competition.

“I think one of my strengths is that I never shy down from any team,” Gatti said.

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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