In her inaugural season at Yale, standout pitcher Francesca Casalino ’18 leads the team with an ERA of 3.11, enough for eighth in the Ivy League. Just five weeks into the season, the Dix Hills, New York native became the first Yale player to be named Pitcher of the Week in five years. Casalino was awarded for her standout performance against Florida A&M, in which she had eight strikeouts and allowed only two hits. In addition, Casalino ranks fourth in the conference with 72 total strikeouts. Casalino spoke with the News about her transition to Yale as well as her experience on the Yale softball team.
Q: How was the adjustment from high school to D-I collegiate softball?
A: The adjustment for me was not too bad because of outside travel ball. I played on a competitive team in tournaments for most of the summer, which really helped to prepare me. But nothing compares to the speed that D-I games are played at. Because everything is more mental, as almost everyone has the talent to compete, the game is different in the way that you need to learn how to win the small battles within the game to win the game itself. So, you need to slow things down and focus on every batter, every out and every inning. This is the way to succeed in D-I softball, and the most difficult adjustment I have had to make.
Q: What made you choose the Ivy League and, specifically, Yale compared to other D-I schools? What are some of the other schools from which you received offers?
A: At the beginning of the recruiting process, I had these big aspirations of playing for top Division-I schools, as I wanted to win a national championship. But as the process progressed, I realized that softball could only take you so far in life; you need to also think about getting a job after college. The game bigger than softball, I realized, was the game of life that I would be playing after college. This was where I found the idea to use my softball and academics to be able to get me into a college that would afford me the just opportunity to prepare for the game of life. So, I started recruiting at Ivy League schools and other top tier colleges. I had received offers from Cornell, Tufts and Williams. But ultimately, I could not turn down the chance to play at such an amazing school. I also really loved the coaches, the team and the proximity of campus to my home.
Q: What has been the hardest part about being a student-athlete at Yale?
A: The hardest part about being a student-athlete at Yale has really been trying to time manage and keep up with my academics during the season. Before the spring came, and our season began, I was living a life that I had known and had lived for all of high school. I would go to class, get a workout in, and then come back to my room for dinner and then do my homework at night. This was difficult, but thankfully high school had well prepared me for this step in time management. But now that season is here, I am dedicating a lot of my days to practice and games (and the travel that comes with games). This is where I am finding the hardest part: to find time to keep up with my schoolwork, try to have a social life and see my friends, and also get a good amount of sleep. But I cannot complain because I enjoy every minute of it!
Q: How would you describe your team dynamics?
A: The team dynamics are amazing. Everyone is so supportive of one another and you know that you always have the team behind you. We really do trust each other because we know that everyone on this team can make an impact in every one of our games. There doesn’t have to be a single person that will win our games, it truly is a team effort because every game, someone different steps up and makes an impact.
Q: To what do you attribute your success this season?
A: Personally, I would attribute my success to my attitude this year of coming in, having fun and enjoying any moment. But the truth is, my team and [captain] Sarah [Onorato ’15] are the reasons why I have had so much success. Without them, I cannot win any games. They are behind me 100 percent, and knowing this, I want to do as well as I possibly can to try and give them the best chance of winning the game.
Q: What expectations do you have for the team for the remainder of the season?
A: Last week was a tough weekend for us. But moving forward, I know that everyone has a fire in their belly to come out and prove that last weekend was a one-time thing. We are so much better than how we played, granted Dartmouth was a great team, but we have so much more fight, spirit and talent to let that weekend define our season. I am excited for Harvard this weekend and then Princeton and Brown next weekend because I know that we will end our season off with a bang. This being said, I just want everyone to have the most fun and to enjoy every game because it has gone by so fast.