No room for flaws

Countryside's GiOnna DiSalvatore isn't happy unless she turns in a near perfect performance every game.

Published March 24, 2005

GiOnna DiSalvatore doesn't believe in imperfection.

That may be the lone fault of Countryside's sophomore softball phenom.

An all-state selection as a freshman, DiSalvatore works tirelessly to dispel notions you can't be perfect on a softball diamond.

DiSalvatore hasn't been perfect for the Cougars, but her numbers are garnering attention from Division I softball programs.

To compensate for young pitchers on the mound this season, Countryside coach Kaylyn Bayly moved DiSalvatore from second base to shortstop, where she has seen more action.

The transition has been easy. DiSalvatore is hitting .478 with 14 runs and 12 RBIs.

"She puts more pressure on herself than anyone ever could," Bayly said. "She expects to be almost perfect every time and that's not going to happen. When we get that through her head, then she'll be okay."

DiSalvatore's obsession with perfection is what drives the 16-year-old to work harder than most seniors. In a uniform since the age of 5, DiSalvatore has developed into a student of the game.

Along with father Joe, DiSalvatore has participated in numerous camps and clinics around the country. Since the seventh grade, the two find quiet corners at college softball games and discuss each play or situation as it could relate to DiSalvatore's position.

"I love the game and just want to get better and be the best player I can," DiSalvatore said. "It is an awesome feeling being contacted by colleges. It tells me that all my hard work has paid off."

DiSalvatore is in a different class when it comes to hard work. Not a day goes by where she is not participating in a softball-related activity. After practicing with the Cougars, she is off to extra batting practice at a local cage or doing extra glove work with her father, an assistant coach at Countryside.

"There aren't too many kids at this level that work as hard as she does," Bayly said. "It is a constant effort. She wasn't blessed with God-given talent. Everything you see is a result of the hard work."

The Cougars' roster features seven freshmen, which makes DiSalvatore an experienced veteran. Bayly said her star player naturally leads by example.

"As the years went on she got to understand and know the game mentally," Joe DiSalvatore said. "There were times that her summer teams would play 100-plus games in a season. Year after year of doing that forces you to learn from your mistakes. She is still working hard after all these years."

Meyla Hooker can be reached at 727 445-4224 or e-mail mhooker@sptimes.com