In the span of a week, Hofstra University freshman Olivia Galati experienced the extremes of college sports: The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Cliché, yes. But the freshman from St. John the Baptist has enjoyed a season so far removed from stereotypical that bold adjectives don’t do it justice. The young pitcher has Hofstra softball off to a 34-8 start, including an impressive 13-1 mark in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Galati was already a Long Island legend after a high school career that began at West Babylon as an eighth grader and culminated with three state CHSAA titles at St. John’s. The two-time NYSSWA player of the year dominated hitters, the way Division I prospects do.
But no one – not even Hofstra coach Bill Edwards – expected her to step into the pitchers circle for a Top 25 college program and continue to stifle opposing lineups so completely and consistently. Certainly not as a freshman.
“We knew she could throw at this level physically,” said Edwards, a pitching guru. “But for her to have the mental process she has and for her to be as disciplined as she is in the circle – she has shown she can rise to the occasion and make the big pitch against a big team in a big moment. That’s her greatest asset. She can compete mentally at this level.”
It’s been a season of memorable moments and learning experiences. Galati has beaten 18th-ranked Louisville and lost a 3-1 decision to No. 5 Michigan.
For a microcosm of her freshman campaign, just look back at the last week. Galati took a two hitter into the seventh inning of a scoreless game against Fordham on April 20. But Fordham, riding a 10-game winning streak, won after Jen Mineau took Galati deep for a solo home run. Pure agony.
On Saturday, April 24, Galati bounced back. She tossed a one-hitter and struck out 14 as Hofstra rolled past UNC Wilmington, 3-0. With the win, Galati became the seventh pitcher in program history to win 20 games in a season and just the third to reach 200 strikeouts. Simply thrilling.
“I’ve really had to elevate my game,” Galati said. “Everyone in college can hit. But I’m really enjoying college ball. It’s great that I can contribute to my team as a freshman.”
The 5-foot, 5-inch Galati is 20-4 with a 1.10 ERA and 213 strikeouts in 159 1/3 innings. She is among the NCAA leaders in nearly every category. She is also getting it done at the plate, hitting .261 with 23 RBI, good for fourth on the team.
“She’s very, very special,” Edwards said. “She’s come in here and exceeded every expectation.”
There was a consensus that Hofstra would take a step back this season after losing four-time All-CAA pitcher Kayleigh Lotti to graduation. The Pride finished 26-21 and saw its 11-year run of conference championships end in a 12-inning loss to Georgia State last May.
The naysayers are in hiding now. Great pitching will do that. The first-place Pride has eight games remaining in the regular season and can lock up the top seed in the CAA Tournament by winning its series against second-place Georgia State.
“I can’t believe the regular season is almost over,” Galati said. “It’s been quite a ride so far.”
“We would love to go to the College World Series,” Galati gushed.
Hofstra is ranked 28th in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. Edwards hopes this young team can make a run in the postseason. With Galati pitching, there just aren’t enough adjectives to describe Hofstra’s potential.