On this day 14 years ago, Newsday’s Jason Molinet profiled senior strikeout queen Juanita Gonzalez.
Making Hitters Go Whiff is Their Common Ground
There are few team sports where one player means so much. It’s a burden every windmill pitcher carries, and none have done it better or longer than Juanita Gonzalez and Diana DiPiano.
For the better part of six seasons, Gonzalez has pitched in relative obscurity while DiPiano can’t escape the spotlight’s glare. Their resumes couldn’t be more different. And their attitudes are polar opposites.
So why is it that Gonzalez, a senior at Stony Brook School, and DiPiano, a senior at Valley Stream South, will be forever linked? It has everything to do with how they send opposing hitters back to the bench – embarrassed, angry, and empty. Gonzalez and DiPiano are the most prolific strikeout artists in Long Island history.
“It’s great girls are exposed to windmill pitching at such a young age,” said Kathy Butler, 37, mother of two children. “I didn’t start pitching until I was a freshman.”
Before she was Butler, Kathy Del Gais was the Long Island strikeout queen. She recorded 780 K’s for Wantagh from 1982-86. Then Bay Shore’s Kim Ryan (1996-99) racked up 878 strikeouts and two state Class A championships. Now both Butler and Ryan have been brushed aside this season by the latest greatest generation of windmillers.
“I always believed she’d be remembered in Valley Stream South circles,” coach Dom Fontana said. “But I never envisioned Diana would take us to the level where every year we’re expected to win a county championship.”
The 5-5 Gonzalez, who is headed to Fordham, turned in one remarkable playoff performance last May with a Suffolk Class C softball title on the line. The Stony Brook School pitcher struck out 18 of the 22 batters she faced and surrendered just one hit. Gonzalez, who relies on a screwball to fool hitters, couldn’t have been more dazzling.
Yet she left the field at NYIT humbled after dropping a 2-1 decision to Center Moriches. The first run reached on a dropped third strike and scored on a hit and throwing error. The second run moved to third on a passed ball and came home on a bunt.
“The girls know Juanita is the reason why we compete with anybody,” Stony Brook coach Brad Baker said. “Her attitude, demeanor, and spirit are incredible. She’s realistic. She knows every game that we’re not going to win if we don’t score runs.”
Even Center Moriches coach Rich Roberts could only shake his head in amazement. The trouble is, heartbreaking losses are nothing new to Gonzalez. Now in the twilight of her stellar six-year varsity career, Stony Brook (5-6) is struggling to win games for the most prolific strikeout pitcher in Suffolk history.
“I used to get frustrated,” said Gonzalez, who is 5-6 with a 0.60 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 81 innings and owns 1,390 career whiffs. “It doesn’t help the team. You try to correct what’s going wrong and learn from the mistakes.”
Here are year-by-year strikeout totals for record-breaking pitchers Diana DiPiano of Valley Stream South and Juanita Gonzalez of Stony Brook.
|Year||Gonzalez Ks||DiPiano Ks|