Fedell-Willard’s mound repertoire led to selection to Hampton Athletic Hall of Fame
By: Devon Moore
Thursday, August 9, 2018 | 10:27 PM
A young Nicole Fedell-Willard sat in her kitchen as her parents were debating her future. Her dad asked a question.
“Nic, do you want to dance, or do you want to play softball?”
The young girl thought maybe the former. But there was a modern art form derived from movement and routine that proved her true calling – pitching.
“Dancing seemed like it was a more graceful way to go,” Fedell-Willard said. “But I’d have never been a good dancer. I was a bull in a China shop. I have to say my dad knew me better than I knew myself.”
That dad is Ron Fedell, still coach of the Hampton softball team. That girl grew up to be a star pitcher. Now, she awaits her induction as a softball player into the Hampton Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sometimes dad knows best.
“I knew she was a better softball player than a dancer,” said Ron Fedell, who nominated his daughter, along with former catcher/first baseman Kelly Quigley, to be the first softball players ever elected to the Hampton Hall of Fame. When she was 3, I had her throwing a ball. When she was a baby she could hit the (darn) ball.”
The two rose through the ranks of scholastic and recreational softball together before helping the high school program to its first playoff appearance as freshmen.
While the team floundered Fedell-Willard’s last three years as it battled in a section with powerhouses North Allegheny, Shaler, North Hills and Seneca Valley, she remembers the team showing heart when it mattered most — especially the lasting memory of pulling a major upset at North Allegheny on senior night.
“Games versus NA caused a lot of stress,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of school spirit and loud fans there to distract you. I really think that was a great accomplishment for the team and a giant morale boost for the season.”
Fedell-Willard and Quigley co-captained a team that didn’t win a ton of games, but had a ton of spirit.
“Moving to that section, a lot of folks were concerned we wouldn’t go anywhere, and we proved we could hang at that point,” she said of that memorable victory. We had kids that had a ton of heart.”
And the heartbeat went through Fedell-Willard and Quigley. The former pitcher is excited to be the first softball player in Hampton’s hall of greats, and is even more excited to go in next to her former teammate.
“The whole group of girls just had a lot of heart,” Ron Fedell said. “And those two girls willed them to a lot of victories they had no business getting.”
That, coupled with an attitude someone was always competing for her spot, and knowledge that her father and coach would not lend any breaks.
“Truly the most difficult coach I ever had,” Fedell-Willard said of her dad. “If I hadn’t had my dad to push me like that … he constantly drilled into me that if you don’t practice, if you’re not getting those 100 pitches in a day, if you’re not lifting, there’s always someone waiting in the wings to take your spot doing all of those things.”
Ron Fedell admits to some tough car rides home but stands tall on his philosophy of equal opportunity.
“I told her, if you want to pitch, you better be better than the next pitcher/ … Quite frankly, if they didn’t deserve to be in there, they wouldn’t be in there. I feel that way about any player. I put in the best nine, regardless.”
“Honestly, that’s how I live my life,” said Fedell-Willard, who lives just across the street from her family with husband Joe, two stepdaughters Meredith and Madelyn, and son Aiden, and works as an assistant vice president at Allied Insurance Brokers.
“Someone is always waiting in the wings to take my place. So I better do my best.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.