August 1, 2014 07:38AM
By DOUG CHAMPION
Sun Staff Writer
Softball is back in Andrea Chiaradio’s life and she is up for the challenge.
The former All-State pitcher for Stonington High graduated in 2013 and just completed her freshman year at the University of Rhode Island. It was her first year in a long time without a softball in her hand. Now she will have her hands full, like most college players, juggling athletics with academics.
“I was kind of burned out,” Chiaradio said. “I needed to see how I could adapt to college life. I did well academically (with a GPA of about 3.7). I made the dean’s list both semesters.
“I missed it (softball). I thought now I would regret it later if I would not at least try it. I made the decision at the beginning of summer.
“I had a meeting with the head coach (Erin Layton). She said, ‘If you’re serious, you’ve got a spot on the roster.’ She gave me a workout regimen. That’s what I’m doing this summer.”
Chiaradio reunited with Henry Laudone of Westerly, her longtime personal pitching coach, for weekly training sessions. Coincidentally, Laudone also was pitching coach for Cassie Baker, a star pitcher for Westerly High who just graduated from URI after four years as a reliever for the Rams.
As Baker experienced, it is a quantum leap from the All-State heights of high school to the mountaintop of Division I college softball.
URI has had a rough ride for the past 11 years, posting only two 20-win seasons after 10 straight through 2003. The Rams have not had a winning conference record in the Atlantic-10 since 2002.
Chiaradio is one of three pitchers of the 20 players listed on the 2015 roster. The primary starter (23 of 46 games) returns. The other listed pitcher is an incoming freshman.
“The coach talked more about me pitching,” Chiaradio said. “I’d prefer pitching, but I’d like to play some outfield. Both are fun. I like pitching because it keeps me in the game for every play. I’ll just work hard and see where it goes.
“I’ve had some academic scholarships this past year from the school and from private sources and those will continue. We’re still working out the kinks for an athletic scholarship. The coach said she’s trying to work out a number.”
Chiaradio played softball year-round while at Stonington High. She was a pitcher and outfielder for the Bears and also for Connecticut travel teams (the Fusion and the Bombers).
As a varsity player for Stonington High, Chiaradio did a little pinch running her freshman year and started all games in center field as a sophomore. She also started every game her junior year (2012) — 17 as ace pitcher and nine as an outfielder — and had a breakout year.
Chiaradio attracted national attention after pitching a “perfect-perfect” game April 21 against an NFA team that came in with a 4-3 record, striking out all 21 batters she faced in the seven innings, and went on to earn Class M All-State honors.
It was believed at the time that Chiaradio was only the second pitcher in Connecticut history to have accomplished that feat and one of only 33 nationally in the history of the sport.
Chiaradio followed that outing with a no-hitter against Tourtellotte (4-5), walking one and striking out 14 in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule. She struck out the first batter, extending her strikeout streak to 22, and her consecutive outs streak reached 36.
Chiaradio finished her junior year with a 12-5 record and 1.79 earned run average (based on seven-inning games).
As a senior in 2013, Chiaradio shared the starting pitcher role with junior Theresa Kane, who had gone 9-0 with a 1.69 ERA the year before.
Chiaradio went 8-1 in 12 starts with a 2.60 ERA, pitching a five-inning perfect game (13 strikeouts) against New London (1-13) on May 9 and a five-inning no-hitter (one walk, 11 Ks) against Windham (2-17) on May 20.
Kane made 15 appearances including 11 starts. She went 9-4 with a 0.96 ERA. Kane, who was also an exceptional hitter, made Class M All-State in 2013 and 2014 and will play for Georgetown University next spring.
Chiaradio finished her Stonington career with a 20-6 record, a 2.10 ERA and averaged 1.6 strikeouts per inning while pitching just over 117 innings. Offensively, she batted .330 and slugged .421.
URI softball team practice starts Sept. 3, which also is the first day of class. The team will practice the whole fall session and then will have a winter workout regimen. The season starts in February and ends in May.
Chiaradio has a double major at URI — finance and economics. She said she took several courses in both during her freshman year and enjoyed each.
“I’ll be trying my best not to have softball hold me back,” she said. “I took five courses a semester my first year. I plan to take six this fall and then scale back to four in the spring, because of all the travel.
“I’m really excited about playing softball again. I definitely missed it. It should be fun and a good experience.”