One of the biggest accomplishments any pitcher can get in any level of baseball and softball, other than a perfect game, is a no-hitter. Every batter that comes up to the plate never reaches first base, whether by a strikeout or a play in the infield or outfield.
For junior pitcher Ali Cavallaro of the Montclair State University softball team, she threw a no-hitter that consisted of 12 strikeouts on March 7 against Gwynedd Mercy University, a season-high for her up to this point.
Throughout the whole game, the ace had no idea this was even conceivable.
“One of my teammates told me after the game that I threw a no-hitter,” Cavallaro said. “It was an awesome experience and something I will never forget, but I couldn’t have done it without my team; they have my back on every play.”
This is a testament to how humble of an athlete Cavallaro is. Nothing to her is an individual effort. Everything is done together as a team, and Cavallaro prides herself on this sentiment that all Red Hawk athletics follow to heart.
Graduate student pitcher Kayla Volante gave her take on how she views Cavallaro as a pitcher for Montclair State.
“One thing that impresses me the most about [Cavallaro] is how humble she is,” Volante said. “She’s very humble about how well she has done … like it’s actually kind of crazy.”
Any other pitcher would lose their mind over hitting 100 strikeouts, in technically three years but actually two years, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) eventually shutting down what would be Cavallaro’s first season. But while the accomplishment was recognized by Cavallaro, she again attributes outside help for her success.
“You have to work [hard] every single day at practice, and I work with coach [Anita Kubicka] every day,” Cavallaro said. “I am super happy to hit that milestone and I cannot wait for more.”
Sophomore outfielder Kayla Cosentino cannot wait for more outs and fewer runs every game Cavallaro is pitching, and she is grateful to have such a solid pitcher when it comes to their offense.
“Because we have [Cavallaro], she is such a strong asset to the team,” Cosentino said. “We are able to take the energy that she has and match it to our bats.”
Their offense is one of the best in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). As of March 27, the Red Hawks lead in hits (172), doubles (40) and runs batted in (106), just to name a few. The combination of the ferocious offense and the consistent pitching from players like Cavallaro explains why they are one of the best teams in the NJAC, and recently had a six-game winning streak.
Cavallaro’s strong energy did not enhance the team right away when she first started in 2020. Due to a decent amount of senior pitchers on the team, Cavallaro never got a chance to play when the season began. Along with all other sports in the NJAC, the softball season got shut down in the spring of 2020, but Cavallaro did not let that get her down.
“Once [COVID-19] hit, I took that as an opportunity to better myself and work on my pitches,” Cavallaro said. “We had group lifts three days a week during the offseason, so we all worked very hard. And all of the girls were very close with each other.”
Her performance the next season helped her join the Second-Team All-NJAC as well as win a weekly rookie honor. With an 8-4 record, Cavallaro learned a lot from a unique 2021 season.
“Last season was very different since we didn’t nearly play as many games as we do this season, so you have to play every game like it’s different,” Cavallaro said. “I know I have a great defense behind me, and they’re there for me every pitch, and I couldn’t do it without them.”
This season, Cavallaro continues to improve and become one of the top pitchers in the NJAC, with 66 strikeouts and seven wins already. Volante is proud of her progress from a lower-string pitcher to a reliable ace.
“[Cavallaro] didn’t really see the field at all when we went down to Florida [in 2020], and she was struggling a bit to prove herself,” Volante said. “And then the next year, she had to step up because a lot of pitchers left the team. And she basically figured it out.”
During a month where all women are recognized for their accomplishments, even though it should be every day, Cavallaro has become a pinnacle for the Montclair State softball team. And while the eyes of fans usually wane over to the male sports, Cavallaro believes this isn’t the case with her team.
“I think [the softball team] gets a bunch of attention and I think that it’s awesome,” Cavallaro said. “Our team loves it.”
Regardless, the softball team will always accept more fans and support as they start another winning streak and continue their run towards another conference championship — led by one of the most humble softball players around.