Penn-Trafford grad Lydia DeFazio smashing success for Mt. Aloysius softball
Lydia DeFazio began her college search during her junior year at Penn-Trafford. It lasted all of one visit.
The first campus DeFazio toured was Mount Aloysius, located just off Route 22 in Cresson. The Cambria County institution offered everything the softball standout needed.
“I always wanted to go to a small campus, and I just loved how hard the softball team worked. The girls all played for each other,” DeFazio said. “I just knew it was where I wanted to go.”
DeFazio was so sold on Mount Aloysius, a Division III school that competes in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, she did not want to visit other campuses. Her parents made her look at one other school, but DeFazio never really considered it.
For that, the Mount Aloysius softball program is thankful.
DeFazio, a sophomore who plays catcher and first base, has been a force for the Mounties, a record-setting slugger during a historic two-year run for the team.
“It’s amazing because this team is so talented. It’s definitely one of the most talented teams I’ve ever been on,” DeFazio said. “This team is so deep at every position. Our pitchers are so diverse.”
Mount Aloysius won its second consecutive AMCC championship this season to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Mounties entered the national tournament with a single-season record 32 wins, and they notched another first with victory No. 33.
A 2-0 win over No. 9 College of New Jersey, the regional tournament host, Friday in the opening round was the first NCAA victory in program history. The season ended with a pair of losses Saturday, but DeFazio’s bat is a big reason the Mounties (33-10) made it that far.
“It’s amazing to see that kid do what she does. She’s just amazing,” said Jeff Bicko, a longtime Mounties assistant in his first year heading the program. “She can keep a rally going or get things started.”
Chances are AMCC opponents wish DeFazio fell in love with another campus, particularly after going against her this season.
She led the conference in batting average (.476), home runs (nine) and RBIs (44), winning the AMCC triple crown and earning conference player of the year honors. Her OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) was an eye-popping 1.340, and she struck out only twice in 124 at-bats.
In Mount Aloysius’ 25 games before the NCAA Tournament, DeFazio had just one hitless game — and she was hit by a pitch three times in that outing. In the final week of March, DeFazio — one of three area players on the team along with AMCC Newcomer of the Year Emily Cochran (Highlands) and first-team all-conference pitcher Karlie Clark (Yough) — went 13 for 15 with six home runs and two doubles in four wins. She earned conference player of the week for her efforts.
“Everything that’s happened is all really cool. I never once thought that this would be a possibility,” DeFazio said. “My coaches helped me fix a couple of things in my swing before the season, and I couldn’t do this without my coaches and teammates.”
Four of those home runs — the team hit 17 during the season — and nine RBIs came March 27 during a doubleheader sweep of Franciscan in which Mount Aloysius scored 26 runs.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Bicko said. “Last year, we probably didn’t hit four home runs all year. She hit four in an afternoon. Honestly, I was scratching my head. Why would you keep pitching to her?”
With eight starters returning next season, pitchers might not have a choice.
“To me, it just means that this team is a force to be reckoned with,” DeFazio said. “We put our heart into every game we play, and we don’t give up on each other. Our record reflects that.”