Marconi waits turn, contributes for history-making St. Francis (Pa.) softball team
In a historic season for St. Francis (Pa.) softball, the list of heroines is long.
There's Northeast Conference Pitcher of the Year Ethel Santai (18-1, 1.62 ERA), NEC Gold Glove-winning catcher Kindra Witthus and conference rookie of the year Abby Trahan (15-3, 2.12 ERA). There's NEC Tournament MVP Sierra McKee and Jordan Seneca (Plum), who had the first 20-homer, 20-steal season in conference history.
They helped lead the Red Flash (48-9, 16-0 NEC) to their first conference title and first NCAA Tournament bid, setting program and NEC records for wins along the way. St. Francis opens play in the Tucson Regional on Friday night against South Carolina.
But to win the day, every heroine needs help from a sidekick, and Yough grad Kelsie Marconi filled that role admirably. She emerged as a key complementary player and a team leader.
“Kelsie has really stepped up this year and took on a great leadership role,” Seneca said. “She was never very vocal the past couple of seasons, but this year was different. She became one of the leaders we needed.
“She has always been a great role model for me.”
Marconi, a senior outfielder, registered only six total at-bats over her first three seasons while serving primarily as a pinch-runner. This season, she had 96 at-bats in 48 games (33 starts), and eight of her 21 hits went for extra bases, including her first collegiate home run March 5 against Incarnate Word. She finished with a .219 batting average, 18 runs, 10 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
Marconi said she hadn't homered since her senior season at Yough, so her home run trot was a little rusty. But her excitement was such that her trip around the bases involved more leaping than trotting.
“I didn't think it was going to go over,” she said. “I was pretty excited. I'm pretty small, so people don't expect me to hit home runs.”
Marconi had other strong games at the plate. She went 3 for 4 with three runs and an RBI in a February win over Maryland-Eastern Shore and was 2 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs in an 11-0 win over East Carolina in March.
On defense, she handled all 28 of her chances without an error and had an assist.
Though Marconi saw little meaningful action through her first three seasons, coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift wasn't surprised by her contributions.
“She approached this year as she did every year: as a new year and a new opportunity,” Patrick-Swift said. “She got a lot of big hits for us, especially early on. It's great to see that success.”
Marconi said she didn't feel out of sync when she finally got her chance to play regularly. The Red Flash, she said, do a lot of game-type sequences in practice, and hitting against their pitching staff prepared her well.
“I had been waiting for my chance for a while,” Marconi said. “I was very thankful for it. I didn't go out play with any pressure. If anything, I felt overprepared.”
But the pressure will ratchet up as St. Francis heads into uncharted territory. South Carolina (32-23) is ranked No. 24 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll. Also in the Tucson Region are Arizona (48-7), ranked No. 5 in both polls, and unranked New Mexico State (28-24).
Marconi said her team will not be intimidated. The Red Flash faced a number of Power 5 schools this season — including two wins over Texas Tech (Big 12) and one over Penn State (Big Ten) — and aim to prove they can perform on softball's biggest stage.
For Marconi, it is a perfect way to end her playing days. And as one of the team's five seniors, she hopes their contributions to this landmark season leave an example for future Red Flash players.
“I think we want to be remembered as quality leaders and real good teammates,” she said. “It's one thing to be a teammate. It's another to be a good teammate.
“We want to leave our teammates an attitude to play the game the right way and fight for each other.”