Division I-bound catcher Bella Henzler is big hit for Hampton

Saturday, April 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM

The first time Hampton coach Ron Fedell saw star catcher Bella Henzler playing softball he wondered if the diminutive seventh-grader had a future behind the plate.

“I thought, ‘I don’t know about catcher, but maybe we can move her somewhere else,’ ” Fedell said. “I’m thinking she’s so small. But when she came in as a ninth-grader, that first day of practice, we knew.”

The 5-foot-4 Henzler has used athleticism and a tireless work ethic to become one of the WPIAL’s top catchers and earn a Division I scholarship to James Madison.

From being named second-team all-section as a freshman to hitting a home run against WPIAL Class 6A Seneca Valley in her first at-bat this season, Henzler has continued to improve.

The junior is batting over .400 with four home runs for the Talbots (3-4, 2-2 in Section 3-5A). She homered in a wild 17-16 loss to Mt. Lebanon on April 19 and added another homer in a 10-5 win over section rival Mars the following day.

“You look at her and you wouldn’t think she has the power that she has,” said Fedell, in his 22nd season. “She’s a small kid, but she’s all muscle. … She’s one of the top one or two catchers we’ve ever had here, easily.”

Henzler boasts an athletic pedigree. Her dad, Kurt, starred at Shaler and played D-I baseball at Marshall, and her mom, Lauren (Colaizzi), is a member of the Shaler Athletic Hall of Fame who has competed in multiple Ironman Triathlon world championships and run in “countless” marathons.

Bella has augmented her natural ability with an almost fanatical workout routine. Her social media videos of catcher defensive drills, slow-motion batting cage swings, running hills wearing a weighted vest and even a five-rep hex bar deadlift of 245 pounds — at 5:30 in the morning — have received thousands of views.

“I’ve worked very hard to be good at what I do,” she said. “I think my hard work has paid off.”

Said Fedell, “She’s a maniac.”

Henzler began playing softball at age 8 and quickly gravitated toward the catcher position. It was a spot on the field where she would be involved in every play.

“I immediately was drawn to that,” she said. “When I started to figure out the whole leadership role of catching, it was the position for me.”

Henzler was named a team captain this year and likely would have been one as a sophomore if covid hadn’t wiped out last season.

Against Oakland Catholic on April 9, in the final inning of a four-inning rout, Henzler was still directing the Talbots’ fielders and encouraging freshman pitcher Charlotte Lomb. The score at the time? Hampton 20, Oakland Catholic 2.

North Hills coach Libby Gaisor said Henzler made an impression in the Indians’ 12-2 victory on April 14. She hit a third-inning over-the-fence home run in the loss, and did much more.

“From the moment they got to our field until the time they left, she really impressed me,” Gaisor said. “Obviously, throughout the game it wasn’t going the way that Hampton wanted it to go, and she was just positive and calling out situations like catchers are supposed to do and adding in pep talks. She was just super impressive.”

Henzler is a smooth, athletic catcher who threw out an estimated 11 of 12 would-be baserunners as a freshman. Her defensive skills have become invaluable this season as Lomb adjusts to varsity softball and works to find the plate.

“As a freshman, (Lomb) has a lot of anxiety. But Bella calms her down,” Fedell said. “When you see Bella work behind the plate, it’s unbelievable. We feel bad because there’s a lot of balls in the dirt and over her head. Bella is like a jumping jack back there.”

Henzler, who plays travel ball for the New Jersey Intensity, considered Appalachian State, Syracuse and Furman before choosing James Madison, a Colonial Athletic power on the way to its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament.

In the meantime, Henzler is trying to lead the Talbots to another WPIAL playoff berth. Hampton was scheduled to play section front-runners Shaler and North Hills on April 28-29, before meeting section foes Fox Chapel and Mars in a three-day span starting May 3.

“I think I am having a good season,” Henzler said. “I am very glad with the way I am hitting right now. I think I’ve been doing my job.”


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