Earlier this week, I interviewed softball player Erika Piancastelli of Athletes Unlimited Softball, the Italian National Team (and the Olympics) and the Japanese League. Urka discussed all of this and a lot more at On the Beat With Erika Piancastelli on the Johngy's Beat YouTube channel.
Born in Moderna, Italy, Erika played softball from an early age. With a father who played baseball and a mother who played softball in the Olympics, it seemed natural for Erika to play ball, but she didn't get realy serious about it until she played at McNeese State University.
It was at McNeese when Erika started thinking she could make a career out of the sport she loved. While at McNeese, in 235 games over four seasons, Erika hit .401 with 75 homers, 212 RBI's and 228 runs scored, the last three being career records for McNeese. She also ranks first in walks, doubles and total bases. Among her many awards and accolades, she was named Southland Conference Hitter and Player of the Year four times.
Erika has played three seasons with AU Pro Softball and will be returning for the 2023 season in August. In 2020, she finished in 4th, followed by 23rd in 2021 and 15th in 2022. Unfortunately, Erika will not play in AUX, the short season beginning in June, because she will be playing in Japan.
She will be leaving soon for the Japanese League season. She talked about the the style of play in Japan and adjusting to the different styles among the various leagues where she has played.
She talked about playing different positions, including which she preferred. Last season at AU, Erika played a lot of right field and she played it well. I asked her about a particular throw she made to nail a runner at third. My buddy Tony and I agree it might be the best throw we have seen on any level of ball. It was a perfect laser beam of a throw. We knew she was a star catcher, but we quickly realized she was just as good in the outfield or probably anywhere else.
Erika updated me on the latest news about RISR. Made for fastpitch players, RISR offers training content, advice and more from its instructors. Erika, Amanda Chidester, Haylie McCleney and Janie Reed certainly have the resumes to be great teachers, but it is their hands-on, relatable approach that makes RISR so special.
Lastly, we talked about Erika's new website. Of course, softball fans can always buy AU apparel to support Erika and other players, but diehard player fans always like to rep gear unique to their favorite players. As I promised Erika, I will be sporting her shirts this summer at AU. I love the logo designed by her sister. Before I let her go, I also got the origins of “Urka.”We wrapped up with a mutual expression of anticipation for the AU season. I am not sure who looks forward to it more, Erika and her teammates or the fans. I know I can't wait.
I thank Erika for her time and consideration with this interview and always. Erika is really an elite player and person. I encourage all to check her site at UrkaAthletics.com.