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Harrison's Dickinson Helps Ursuline Softball Rise

John Pirone recalled watching the final three games of the Ursuline softball season, prior to becoming the coach the next year. The Koalas were beaten handily in those games. When the job opened up, Pirone, who had coached Salesian varsity baseball, applied for it. He won nine games in his first season before welcoming a freshmen class that would elevate Ursuline to new heights.

Ursuline would win 67 games and play in the program’s only two Section 1 Class AA finals (2009, ‘11). It was the most successful four-year run in program history based on the efforts of Taylor Pirone, Kristie Vitulli, Kari and Marisa Bird, Kristen Rodopoulos and Emily Dickinson, a Harrison resident.

“These girls put Ursuline softball on the map,” said Pirone, who is also Taylor’s father. “I can’t tell you what they meant to me and the program. I had the cream of the crop in New Rochelle. I have girls wanting to come to Ursuline now for the softball program, and it is because of the seniors.”

In 2008, Ursuline scored a sectional first-round upset of John Jay-Cross River and Gaby Torzilli, one of the most dominant Section 1 pitchers at the time. Torzilli now plays softball for Big East champion Syracuse. Ursuline reached the sectional semis last year, and played North Rockland and John Jay-East Fishkill, in the 2009 and ‘11 finals, respectively. North Rockland reached the final this year with a 7-3 win over top-seeded Roy C. Ketcham.

Pirone explained that Ursuline stuck to the basics and played the game. “Not only did the girls like each other, they respected each other on the field and they wanted to win, right down to the end,” he said. “This group dedicated themselves, a lot, to softball in their four years, especially these last two.”

What makes Pirone even more proud of his seniors is that they will be playing softball in college. Pirone received a scholarship to Fordham, Vitulli is going to Southern Connecticut State, Rodopoulos is playing at Manhattanville, Dickinson will be at Roger Williams (Rhode Island) and the Bird sisters are planning to walk on at the College of St. Rose (Albany).

“My goal as a coach to get as many girls as I can the opportunity to play in college,” he said. “This makes me very proud.”

Pirone will also remember this time period because he spent time withi his daughter doing what she loves. “In softball, it all starts in the circle and you build around it,” Pirone said. “I love watching Taylor play the game and I love coaching her.”

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