Minniti, Pandas on track for a great season

Natalie Minitti helped Nazareth win the District 1 championship. CONTRIBUTED

Natalie Minniti had the softball part down pat.

But she wanted to get better in a few aspects of her game.

So two years ago, Minniti, a senior on the Nazareth Academy High School softball team, picked up a new sport that she thought would help her in softball.

She couldn’t have been more right.

“I went out for indoor track because I wanted to get in better shape and run faster for softball,” said Minniti, who lives in Somerton. “Then I started throwing the shot put, too. I think my arm got a lot stronger from that.

“The running, I like. I didn’t love it because I’m an asthmatic, but I like running. It definitely helped. My asthma isn’t as bad. It helped me run faster, and I feel better because of it.”

She also feels great because the Pandas are in the midst of a special season.

Nazareth suffered just one loss in competitive Catholic Academies League play and went on to win the championship. The Pandas followed that up by bringing home a District One championship.

The Pandas got a three-run double by McKenzie Tobler and strong pitching from Devyn Dydak, who helped herself with an RBI double, en route to knocking off Gwynedd Mercy 6-3 in the District One Class 4A championship game.

This wasn’t a product of a good season. It was a product of a great career that included ups, downs and more than a little hard work.

“This feels so good for us because the team has so many seniors and a lot of juniors, and we’ve all been working for this since we got here,” said Minniti, who plays first base and typically hits in the three hole for Nazareth. “Every year was good, we played well every year, but we knew this year was going to be special.

“I knew it was going to be special because it was my senior year, but we also knew because we were working for this the past four years. And this team is so close. We’re not softball friends, we’re just friends. We’re friends away from softball, too. There’s no negative energy on this team, we all get along and we’re all playing for each other. We had this every year, but this year was definitely the best.”

It’s been that way since Minniti arrived at the school.

She’s been on the varsity squad since day one and even though this is the first year that produced a championship, it’s been a run she’s enjoyed. It’s also produced a lot of lifelong friends.

But still, there is something special about winning a championship.

“Winning was the greatest feeling,” Minniti said. “I was so shocked when we won. I knew all the hard work we put in was going to pay off, but when it happens, it just feels so good. It feels so good to go to the (district) championship game, let alone win it. It just proves that all the hard work we put in for the past four years has been worth it.”

Next up for Minniti is a summer that will include a lot of softball. She plays infield for the EC Bullets. She also plans on getting a job, possibly at a supermarket. And it won’t be long before she heads to Fairfax, Virginia. She will attend George Mason in the fall and is thinking about joining the softball team as a walk-on.

She also has her future planned out.

“I want to major in forensic science,” Minniti said. “I’m interested in that, and I would really like a job where I help people dealing with crime, and help give them closure. It’s very interesting, and you can help people.

“When I was at (St. Albert the Great), they had a forensic science technician come in and talk to us and it was really interesting. It seems like a really cool job and it gives you a chance to help people that really need it.”

She’s also looking forward to living at the school, which is located just outside Washington, D.C.

“I love being home, but I’m looking forward to going there and meeting a lot of people and being on my own,” Minniti said. “I’ve talked to their softball coach a few times and met him at a camp. I’m not sure, but if I do walk on, I’ll probably play first base or third, or even second. I can play in the infield.”

But no matter how fun George Mason is, she’ll miss her friends at Nazareth. None of them are going with her to college, but she’ll remain friends with them forever.

“This team is so close, I think it’s because we’re all the same age, we’re all mostly seniors and juniors, so we’ve been together for three or four years,” Minniti said. “We all like being around each other. I think we’ll all stay in touch. I don’t think we are close because we won, I think we won because we are such good friends.”