By Dave Dyer
---- — Yale catcher Sarah Onorato does not want to carefully decipher why she has suddenly become the Ivy League’s premier power hitter.
The sophomore from North Reading via Phillips Academy is off to a stupendous start for the Bulldogs, who swept Cornell last weekend for the first time since 1996 and are 3-1 in league competition.
Through 22 games overall, Onorato is hitting .419 with 9 homers, 17 RBIs, 21 run scored and 31 hits. She leads the team in all of those categories and is at or near the top in the whole league.
Onorato, who was a rare four-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star, has always been a tremendous hitter, but the power numbers are both startling and something new.
At Phillips, after all, Onorato hit nine home runs in four seasons combined and she only had one roundtripper last year, when she hit a respectable .255 (fourth on the team) despite missing two weeks with a concussion.
”I really have no idea and I’m not questioning it,” said Onorato, whose home run total leads the Ivy League and is already just one shy of the single season Yale record. “I just want it to continue.”
When pressed, however, Onorato, does have some ideas on the subject.
”Our new coach (Jen Goodwin) has a lot of positive energy and has expressed a lot of confidence in my hitting,” said Onorato. “Hitting is such a mental thing, I think that’s helped me.
”She’s also emphasized an aggressive approach at the plate ... getting an early pitch and going with it. I think that’s better than waiting deep into the count.”
Goodwin is not surprised by the power surge. She remembers watching Onorato bat during fall workouts shortly after being hired.
”I had been analyzing the team and their swings, and she was having a particularly great day in the cages,” said Goodwin. “I asked her how many home runs she hit last year. Her response was: ‘One, and it was the only game my parents missed.’
”I told her they would get to see plenty this year. She is just so strong, disciplined, and focused, and when she goes after a pitch she gets her money’s worth.
“What most impresses me about Sarah besides how she’s swinging the bat, is that she’s the best blocking catcher I’ve ever coached — her instincts and quickness behind the plate are unmatched, and she has saved many runs.
“She also relates to each pitcher differently, as they all have very different personalities. She’s the complete package, and I feel so lucky to have a player like Sarah, who is only a sophomore, on our team in my first year at Yale.”
Although she had a respectable season as a freshman, Onorato was not satisfied. She set out to help lead the team to one of the top two spots in the Ivy League North division while striving to get a hit in every game.
The results of those goals are spectacular thus far. The Bulldogs, who face Bryant College and North Andover’s Britt Hart in a non-league game today, are currently first in the Ivy North and she has indeed gotten a hit in every game.
Always active and a superb student, Onorato is a beat reporter for the Yale Daily News and she works for Yale Sports Publicity in the fall and winter as a statistician for the volleyball and women’s basketball teams.
A psychology major, she also has managed to find the time to sport a 3.85 grade-point average (out of 4).
None of this surprises veteran Phillips softball coach Peter Drench.
“Sarah was a genuine star for four years at PA, a true student-athlete, to use an often-abused term,” said Drench. “She has continued to improve as a collegiate ballplayer at Yale. ... I thought she would.”
Even Drench, however, is stunned by the home run total. “I never expected that,” he said.
Red-hot start Through 22 games, Yale catcher Sarah Onorato of North Reading has been the team's best hitter in every significant category. Average: .419 Doubles: 7 Home runs: 9 RBIs: 17 Runs: 21 On-base percentage: .469