Stetson University senior outfielder Chrissy Morello loves to compete, which is why the sport of softball suits her so well. Whether she is trying to get a hit, steal a base, or chase down a fly ball, she is driven to be successful in every single aspect of the game.
“I am very competitive,” Morello said. "Losing is no fun. At the end of the day you don't remember your own stats, you just remember how the team did and the friendships you've built over the seasons, which is why winning as a team is the most important thing to me. I am happy to say this has been the best year of softball for me, and I will remember it forever."
While softball is a major part of her life now, Morello’s feelings about the sport did not necessarily begin on the right foot.
“I think I started around the age of seven, and I hated it,” Morello said. “I didn’t want to play at all. My (older) sister wanted to play, but my mom didn’t want us in two different leagues, so I played up with her. My sister knew all the kids, but I didn’t really know them. I was like the tag-along little kid that always followed the older ones around.”
Morello got to pick a new sport the next year for her and her sister, so she gave soccer a try.
“I really liked that, but then they stopped giving out snacks at halftime, which is what I enjoyed,” Morello joked. “I did tennis the next year, but because of softball, my swing was too big, so they kicked me out of that. Then we did softball again.”
She took more of a liking to the sport the second time around, and the Hatter program has been the beneficiary. During her Stetson career, she has compiled some lofty offensive numbers, ranking among the school's all-time leaders in hits, total bases, and runs scored, all-the-while hitting from the left side of the plate.
However, Morello actually began her career as a right-handed hitter, which is her natural side. She has always thrown and written right-handed, except during a brief stint in high school when she broke her right hand diving into third base. She had to learn to write left-handed just to take the FCAT exam.
“(The handwriting) wasn’t that good, but my normal handwriting isn’t that good either,” Morello said.
Two years later, Morello made another righty-to-lefty switch when her Spruce Creek High School team needed a left-handed hitter in the line-up. Her coach asked her to switch sides of the plate.
“Most of my junior year I just bunted and soft slapped,” Morello said about batting left-handed. “Eventually I just started trying to swing and figured it out. When I got to Stetson, Coach (Frank) Griffin said, 'They know you are slapping so you better start swinging.'”
Swing away she did, and after four seasons at Stetson, Morello is just five hits away from the 200-hit milestone. Twenty-nine of those hits have been for extra bases, including four home runs.
“She is one of the most athletic individuals I have ever coached,” Griffin said. “I think she could switch hit if she chose to. To chase balls down and keep her eyes steady while she is running as fast as she is running makes her just a phenomenal athlete.”
Morello’s speed also makes her a threat at the plate and on the bases. She recently became just the fifth player in school history and ninth player in Atlantic Sun history to swipe 80 bags in a career.
“She has stolen a lot of bases and has ran out a lot of would-be outs,” Griffin said. “She puts a lot pressure on the defense. She is a great kid and comes from a great family.”
Family played a major role in Morello’s decision to come to Stetson. A native of nearby Port Orange, Fla., Morello elected to stay close to home to help take care of her mom, and also to allow her parents more opportunities to come see her play. In fact, of Morello’s 194 career games to date, both home and road, her parents Carmen and Doreen have attended all but five, missing only a two-game set at Mercer in 2011 and a three-game series at Northern Kentucky earlier this year.
“It is awesome that they get to see me play,” Morello said. “They gave up so much of their life to take me places and play softball, so they should get a chance to come to most of the games.”
Morello’s competitiveness spills over to her academic career, where she has consistently received high marks. She has made the Dean’s List every semester at Stetson, she has twice been named to the Atlantic Sun Softball All-Academic team, and she has been honored as an NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete every year.
“I don’t like failure,” Morello said. “If I get a B, I am upset. I think I could have got an A.”
Morello and the Hatters wrap up the regular season this week as they visit UNF for a three-game series beginning with a doubleheader Wednesday at 5 p.m. The series finale will be played at 2 p.m. Thursday. Live stats and a live blog will be available for all three games.
Stetson (33-11, 16-7 Atlantic Sun) will need to win two of the three games to clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the A-Sun tournament. Otherwise, Stetson will be the No. 4 seed.
Either way, Morello is looking forward to the tournament next week and what she believes is a golden opportunity for the Hatters to win a conference championship.
“I am really excited,” Morello said about the upcoming tournament. “My whole life I have always finished second. I got second at gold nationals and I got third at the state tournament in high school. I never had a team that I felt had this good of a chance. This team does. We have a really good chance.”