Being a collegiate athlete is something special. Playing for the same university your father attended, even more so. When your father is a former national champion at said university? It’s a dream come true.
For Montclair State University softball’s senior center fielder Annalesa DiLaurenzio, this dream is a reality. The outfielder from Hazlet, New Jersey, is in her second year as a player on the team and has maintained the starting job at center throughout her time at Montclair State. She might not have ever come to Montclair State if it wasn’t for her father, Rob DiLaurenzio.
Rob had his own time in the spotlight at Montclair State. A member of the baseball team from 1991 to 1994, he was an integral part of the 1993 NCAA National Championship team.
In the championship final in Battle Creek, Michigan, Rob batted in the leadoff spot and caught the final out as Montclair State defeated the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 3-1 to claim their second ever National Championship.
The Montclarion was there in 1993 to cover the baseball team winning the championship and Rob catching the most important baseball of his collegiate career. Even now, in 2022, he remembers the game like it was yesterday.
Rob also had some significant marks during his time at Montclair State with the baseball team. He earned 197 career hits, and in that championship game, he earned two walks. What’s so significant about that? DiLaurenzio is fourth all-time in Red Hawk history in walks, with 125 to his name.
Even after all these years, he still sees a little bit of his own game through his daughter.
“I was never the best athlete on the team, but I always worked hard and worked for everything I got, and I see a lot of that in Annalesa,” Rob said.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Annalesa inherited the work ethic of her father, as her dad is a major reason why she decided to play softball.
“Just watching him play baseball and hearing all the great stories he has, it made me want to start playing too,” Annalesa said.
Annalesa also added that softball was something she considered to be a “bonding thing” between the two of them. You could say it literally runs in the family.
While her passion was always with softball, Annalesa’s direction toward Montclair State had some pit stops. She originally committed to Ursinus College, spending a year there before transferring to Brookdale Community College. Eventually, there was one place left to go: the same university her father went to.
“We were always Red Hawks,” Annalesa said. “I didn’t come here originally, but now it was always where I was meant to be.”
Annalesa has been consistently improving since 2021, when she joined the team. This season, she has 13 hits and 17 runs, almost doubled in both categories from last season. She also has a double and a triple to add to nine RBIs, another improvement from her first season at Montclair State.
Annalesa has been a key factor for the Red Hawks the past two years as she has started every game since then and hopes to continue that heading into the playoffs.
For her dad, seeing his daughter in “Montclair [state] red” was a moment to remember. Just like the Montclair State red he used to wear back in his baseball glory days.
“That first day when I came here at Montclair State and saw her in a Red Hawk uniform, I was so proud as a dad,” Rob said.
Rob also added that there was nothing better than that feeling. Not only seeing his daughter succeed, especially in sports but for her to do it at his alma mater is a priceless moment.
It’s a moment and feeling Rob has every game, as he’s consistently at games cheering on Annalesa and the softball squad. With this being her senior year, the number of times she will be putting on that uniform is quickly flying by. Annalesa is looking to enjoy every second she still has at Montclair State.
“I’m just looking forward to winning some more games, having a great time with my teammates and just making happy, positive memories with them,” Annalesa said.
There will be at least two more games on the schedule in Annalesa’s softball career. The softball team clinched the sixth seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Playoffs and will play at Rowan University on Tuesday, with another game on Friday guaranteed, no matter the result.
Rob has always been supporting Annalesa’s softball career from the beginning. Now, her career is hitting its tail end. But with top-seeded Rowan to look forward to in the NJAC playoffs, expect to see Rob cheering on his daughter with every step she takes on that field.