There was never any doubting Christina Mezey’s talents as a softball pitcher.
From the minute she grabbed the ball and entered the circle as a pitcher for the St. Dominic Academy softball team two years ago, Mezey displayed the immense power that comes with being a dominant pitcher.
Mezey had flashes of brilliance last year as a sophomore, striking out 16 in an early season performance. But Mezey couldn’t maintain any level of consistency.
As she entered her junior season, Mezey knew that she had to become a better all-around pitcher all the time.
“I worked real hard in the offseason,” Mezey said. “I knew that this was a big year for me, so I took pitching lessons all year round. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything different. But I did have a different mindset.”
She also had a different coach.
Mike Nieves took over the SDA program last fall, not knowing much about the talent he had returning – except rumors of a solid pitcher.
“I heard that we had a sophomore pitcher who was pretty good,” Nieves said. “As I was talking to friends about the team, I knew that I had a pitcher with experience.”
Nieves recalls the first day that he got to meet Mezey in person.
“The first day I met her, I could sense the enthusiasm she had for the game,” Nieves said. “She was an extremely likeable kid and was willing to do whatever it took to win. She said she was taking pitching lessons.”
Mezey was also a member of the SDA basketball team, so she headed to offseason softball workouts after basketball practice.
“Dedication is not a strong enough word to describe what she showed us,” Nieves said.
Nieves also made it clear that Mezey was starting with a clean sheet with him as the coach.
“I told her that whatever happened last year is in the past,” Nieves said. “We were starting fresh and new. I could tell that she was throwing strikes. She concentrated on getting the first pitch over as a strike, then worked on getting the first batter out. If she did that, then good things were going to happen.”
Mezey knew that her control was a key.
“I felt like since I threw more in the offseason, I was ready for this year,” Mezey said. “The work in the offseason definitely helped my velocity and my control. I always felt like that was important, from the minute I first started pitching in fourth grade. I always wanted to be a pitcher, but my Dad [local softball coach Rich Mezey] put me at third base. Once I became a pitcher, I worked on throwing strikes.”
Mezey started the 2014 season with a new-found confidence.
“I was more confident with my defense,” Mezey said. “I knew that they could field the ball behind me. I think that helped my mindset as well.”
In the past week to 10 days, Mezey has been downright brilliant.
It started with a huge win over perennial Hudson County power North Bergen, defeating the Bruins while striking out 10. She also struck out 10 batters in a 3-2 loss to Ferris, allowing just three hits.
In a win over Park Ridge, Mezey allowed just one earned run and struck out eight in a 2-1 win. In that game, Mezey had two triples and drove in the game-winning run.
She then had a one-hitter against Bayonne, striking out seven in a 3-1 win. She struck out 13 and allowed just four hits in a big 6-2 win over Hoboken and ended the week with a three-hitter, striking out 14 in a 3-1 win over Kearny, her fourth straight victory.
For her efforts, Mezey has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“She’s really been consistent all year,” Nieves said. “She’s kept us in games all year.”
The Blue Devils own a 9-5 record, after winning just seven games all of last season.
Nieves said that the communication and camaraderie between Mezey and catcher Gabriella Contey has been huge. Contey is a converted third baseman who became a catcher this season.
“Gabriella was the last option we had to go back there and catch,” Nieves said. “She helps Christina out tremendously. It helps that Christina has someone she can throw to and she’s not afraid to throw any of her pitches.”
Mezey has an array of different pitches in her arsenal.
“I feel like I’m more consistent,” Mezey said. “I think that’s a key. I’m also more comfortable out there, more comfortable with my teammates. That helps my confidence pitching this year. We have a really good team this year. The team knows what to do. They push me to do better. I think they all know what it takes. It’s not just me doing well. It’s the whole team. If we were losing, no one would pay attention. If we didn’t score, we wouldn’t win. So it’s the whole team this year.”
Nieves believes that Mezey can only get better.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her yet,” Nieves said. “I think her ceiling is even higher. With her work ethic and dedication, she’s going to be great.”
Nieves credited assistant coach John Rivera for working diligently with Mezey and Contey.
“She has a variety of pitches,” Nieves said. “John sees what works and goes with it.”
Mezey believes that she can only get better.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Mezey said. “I knew we could do it. I always felt like we had it in us to do well. We’re starting to play to our potential.”
Has it sunk in that she’s become such a dominant pitcher?
“Not yet,” Mezey said. “At least, not completely. I know I can pitch better. I know I’m not there yet.”
But Mezey is certainly getting there. The statistics over the last week or so don’t lie. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.