An improbable injury and a shallow bench thrust Melissa DellaTorre ’14 into the pitching rotation two years ago as a first year. She is now much more than a spot-starter, having thrown more innings than any other pitcher on the team this year. She ranks second in the NESCAC in ERA and fifth in total strikeouts this season. 

“She really exceeded our expectations her first year,” said Head Coach Ryan Sullivan.   “[Now], going into a big series, we’re going to throw her at least once. We know she’ll go seven innings and give you a great performance.”

Sullivan had plenty of opportunities to set those expectations. DellaTorre played high school softball only a half an hour away from the College. 

“What stood out, even in high school, was her composure,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a physical talent, but it’s crucial for a pitcher.”

Coming into Bowdoin, DellaTorre already possessed an arsenal of pitches. These advantages resulted in her quick learning curve—she has become more efficient each year she has played. Warmups that took her 30 minutes her first year can now be accomplished in 15. 

DellaTorre’s close proximity to Bowdoin played a large part in her decision to attend the College. She had known that softball would be her primary focus when she was just ten years old and said that she had always intended to play in college, even from that early age. Bowdoin had been her only choice.

A three-sport athlete in high school, DellaTorre continues to run cross-country but has since abandoned soccer. She said she believes the cross-country conditioning provides her endurance as a pitcher. According to DellaTorre, she pitches during the offseason to ease the transition late in the spring.

“Mostly I’ll just go out to the field and work on my throws,” she said. “The catchers are really good about [going out there with me].”

“One thing that’s unique about Melissa,” Sullivan said, “is that she’ll never bypass an opportunity to throw.”

Softball pitchers, unlike baseball pitchers, can throw consistently without needing for long periods of rest, because of the more natural nature of their throws. DellaTorre has thrown the first game in each NESCAC series this season, and sometimes pitches the third as well. Sullivan said that he has been conscious of trying not to overwork his star pitcher, something he admits has happened in the past.

“Quite honestly, we probably overused her,” he said. “But we have been aided by the fact that our other pitchers are playing well. We have more depth this year.”

DellaTorre said that the added depth has given her confidence that the team can improve upon last year’s playoff appearance, something her two-hit shutout against Bates on Friday helped guarantee. 

Depth for a softball bullpen is much different than it is in baseball. Bowdoin’s baseball team, due to the nature of pitching, has seen 12 pitchers throw this season and has 17 players capable of pitching on its roster. The softball team has just four pitchers, including DellaTorre. 

In her studies, DellaTorre has maintained an interest in the sciences. She declared a neuroscience major and intends to pursue a minor in earth and oceanographic studies. She spent last summer studying oysters in California and will travel to China this summer to study environmental microbiology. 

“The idea of going to China was interesting,” she said, “because I don’t know about it. Honestly, I just looked over a few [programs]. I wasn’t expecting to get any of them.”
After her softball success at Bowdoin, however, DellaTorre has shown she deserves higher expectations.

“She’s just a quiet unassuming kid,” Sullivan said. “She’s competitive in her own way. From a coaching standpoint, I don’t think you could ask for more.”

The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.