Chartiers Valley softball sophomore packs powerful punch

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Mashing home runs has become just “another day in the office” for Chartiers Valley sophomore phenom Lily Duffill.

That’s how it’s described from the perspective of senior Marta Gualazzi and her softball teammates as they watch Duffill launch sometimes not just one or two, but three home runs in a game.

“At this point, we are so used to Lily’s insane power and are never shocked to see her blast another ball over the fence,” Gualazzi said. “ ‘Another day in the office’ is something we say when Lily is on her third home run of the game.”

Twice this season, Duffill showed her impact with three-homer games against Pine-Richland in the first contest of the year and Ambridge in the second week of April.

The power-hitting catcher’s home run prowess has come to be expected after emerging with an impressive all-state freshman campaign. As a sophomore, she has surpassed her output from a year ago to lead the WPIAL with 11 home runs during the regular season, while driving in 33 runs and hitting .500.

Duffill’s outstanding season didn’t come without long hours of work during the offseason, when she would spend time with Gualazzi working on repeatedly sending balls out of fields.

“We’d spend the summers blasting balls over fences during front toss just to have fun and get reps in, so we share a love for the game regardless of the situation,” Gualazzi said.

As a freshman making an immediate jump to the varsity level last season, Duffill needed to lean on a mentor. That’s where Gualazzi stepped in to form a special relationship.

“Last year, Marta took me under her wing and really helped me with the transition into starting,” Duffill said.

With the catcher and third baseman being on the younger end of a senior-led team last year, the two knew they would eventually be big pieces of this spring’s team.

“Being the only two last year that weren’t seniors, we formed a bond and knew we’d be sticking together for one last year. We have the same sense of humor and both love softball,” Duffill said.

Gualazzi has witnessed first-hand the progress that Duffill has made in a short period of time.

“From last year being a timid freshman to this year, she has developed some leadership and really came out of her shell,” Gualazzi said.

With a year under Duffill’s belt, Colts coach Chris Lloyd knew there would be no sophomore slump for his cleanup hitter and that she would continue to immerse herself in the spotlight.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” Lloyd said about Duffill’s performance this season. “Lily gets better every game. She’s just a softball player.”

Leading up to the season, Lloyd observed Duffill’s unwavering dedication to improve her game whether that was through offseason workouts with the Colts or training at CSide Sports in Washington, Pa., or Cool Springs in Bethel Park.

“She goes to her hitting coach a lot. She works on not only the physical part of hitting, but the mental part, her mental game and being in the game knowing the situation and knowing what’s going on,” Lloyd said. “She doesn’t look at pressure as pressure. Softball is just her thing.”

Visiting her hitting coach has certainly paid off this season for Duffill as she worked on her approach at the plate.

“They help me mentally with hitting and my mentality when I’m going to the box: What’s my plan when I go in there?” Duffill said.

Moments before Duffill swings, she takes a moment to collect herself and think about some of the things that Lloyd and her hitting coach pass along.

“With coach Chris, he always talks about line drives and if you hit a line drive, it’s going to go out. That’s my mentality — breathe, relax and hit a line drive,” Duffill said.

With line drives on her mind, Duffill often puts the barrel on the ball and watches it fly.

“It comes natural to her,” Lloyd said of her ability to hit home runs. “Her swing is so fluid and the way she loads up, she swings effortlessly. It’s the work she puts in the weight room that makes her stronger.”

The countless hours Duffill put in helped lead the Colts to a 14-3 record with an offense that averaged more than nine runs a game.


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