Editorâ??s note: Throughout the local high school sports season, Culpeper Times will recognize anâ??Athlete of the Weekâ? from one of the sports. This week we are featuring softball. At the end of the year, the Times will select a male and female athlete at both Culpeper County and Eastern View high schools and recognize them as â??Athlete of the yearâ? at their respective schools.
There were a couple times in Brittani Piazzaâ??s young life when she was tested mentally and physically. Two ACL injuries led to two surgeries and months of rehabilitation for Piazza, yet she never let the doubts disrupt her dream of playing softball her senior year and at the collegiate level.
Piazza is a complete player who can change the course of a game with her arm, bat or defensive skills.
She is a tenacious hitter, shortstop and star pitcher for the 4Â1 Cyclones.
So far this season, sheâ??s hit for power and average. The right-Âhander is also undefeated as a pitcher.
â??I feel great. As a team weâ??re doing pretty well except for our timing. Our timing has been offâ??off in the sense that weâ??re waiting until the last innings to score. Our only loss against Riverbend was due to timing and errors,â? said Piazza. â??If we can score and hold leads earlier in our games we will be successful. Iâ??m optimistic about our team.â?
Recently, in a competitive game 8-Â7 victory over Monticello, Piazza went 4-Â4, and scored a pair of runs with a firstâ??inning home run.
This spring the weather has been less than ideal with colder than normal temperatures and rain, but so far the Cyclones are poised to contend in the district.
â??The weather cancellations have forced us to practice in the gym and that doesnâ??t really allow us to do everything,â? said Piazza. â??The cold makes pitching a little tougher, especially on the fingers, but that will improve as it warms up.â?
One of Piazzaâ??s most remarkable attributes continues to be her resilience.
â??After the second ACL injury my doctor said I might not play for an entire year. At that point I even considered giving it all up, but I worked very hard to return last year. I really wanted to play college softballÂÂÂ thatâ??s still my dream. I came back and played well, earning conference and team MVP honors and now Iâ??ve committed to play at Lynchburg College.â?
Piazza now views the knee injuries as a badge of courage.
â??I think the whole experience made me stronger. Rehabbing from the injuries made me focus on weight training and working out, now Iâ??ve made it a part of my life,â? said Piazza. â??I wasnâ??t in the gym regularly before the injuries. Now, Iâ??m there all the time.â?
Though the season is young, Piazza has been impressed with the potential displayed by fellow pitcher Taylor Norris, a junior. Academically, Piazza is a straight-ÂA student, according to her teachers.
Piazza is quick to cite the support of family and coaches as a key ingredient to her success.
â??My family has always pushed me to be my best. Theyâ??re not the type of parents that tell you how great you are all the time. They give it to me straight,â? said Piazza. â??My assistant coach Michelle Beall inspires me a lot. Sheâ??s told me what it takes to play college softball. Sheâ??s really given me greater perspective as a player. Iâ??m also thankful for head coach (Lonnie) Meyers. He has full confidence in me as a shortstop.â?
In the toughest moments during a game Piazza gains confidence from her teammates.
â??When Iâ??m pitching itâ??s all about my teammates for me,â? said Piazza. â??They inspire me to play my best.â?
The Cyclones have games at Courtland and Culpeper this week.
Marshall Conner is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at email@example.com