-Farmingdale State's Nicole Farber and C.W. Post's Christie Softy hope to lead their teams to the NCAA Tournament-
By Steve Marcus, Newsday
Farmingdale State shortstop Nicole Farber is a pure hitter. C.W. Post shortstop Christie Softy is a pure power hitter. With conference playoffs about to begin, both hope to lead their teams into the NCAA Tournament.
Farber, a junior, is hitting .515, which places her in the top 10 in Division III. That equates to better than a hit in every other at-bat, on average. And that's not good enough for her.
"I'll get a single and it might not be a hard-hit single and I'll be ticked,'' Farber said. "Even if it drives in the run. I'll be on first base tormenting myself, thinking 'My weight wasn't back, my hands were wrong.' ''
Farber has had at least one hit in 87 of 117 games in her three years at Farmingdale. "I don't usually don't go up there in fear that I'm going to strike out or in fear that something isn't going to go my way,'' she said. "I know I'm going to make contact with the ball.'' She has struck out only twice in 101 at-bats this season.
Farber, who played for Connetquot High School - where she holds records for home runs (32), runs batted in (141) and hits (165) - is the reigning player of the year in the Skyline Conference. She hit .410 as a freshman and .435 as a sophomore. She has 32 home runs and 141 RBIs in three seasons.
Farmingdale will play in the Skyline Tournament this week. The winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA's.
How difficult has it been for Farber to raise her average by an astounding 80 points?
"I have to hit that outside pitch and get that single,'' she said. "I have to take that inside pitch and get that double. When I see it, I drive the ball. I just have that hard power swing, I guess you could say.''
Trying to pitch around Farber does not work. "People say walks are as good as hits,'' she said. "Walks don't do anything for you; they keep you right where you are. I didn't realize pitchers would rather walk me than have me drive in a run. Before this season, I didn't look at it that way.''
At Post, the 5-3 Softy belies her size with home run power. She holds the school record with 46 career homers, 12 more than previous record-holder Jill Fisher hit. She has 207 RBIs in her career.
"Everyone says I'm too small to be hitting home runs,'' she said with a laugh. "In high school, we never played with fences. Maybe a shot in the gap kept rolling.''
Softy, a senior from Floral Park High School, hit 15 homers her freshman year but tailed off to five as a sophomore. She knows why. She missed the competition of having Fisher in the lineup. "We were hitting home runs back and forth, then she graduated,'' Softy said. "So that second year, I might not have been as focused.''
Softy hit 11 as a junior and has 15 this season. There was a drought of 16 games before she set the career mark on April 6.
"I had tied the career record [March 20]. Everybody was like, 'When are you going to hit the next one?' I said, 'I don't know.' It wasn't coming. One day it finally came.''
She had three homers last Saturday against Molloy. "I heard the coach yell out, 'Don't give her anything good to hit','' Softy said of the at-bat after her second home run of the day. "I swung at the first pitch, then there were three balls. She threw a high pitch that I thought was ball four; they called it a strike. The next one was around the same area, I swung and it went over the centerfield fence.''
Given her size, Softy said she often is asked about her ability to hit home runs. When she was a freshman, she used to say the power came from her derriere, but that has been amended because of the ribbing she took. "The hips and very good mechanics and a lot of practice,'' she now says.
Post is likely to be the top seed in the East Coast Conference Tournament next week. The team has made the Division II World Series twice in Softy's career. "That,'' she said, "is where we want to get back to.''