FAIRFIELD — Olivia Vadas is in a never-ending search for perfection. The opponent for the Fairfield Warde softball pitcher is often not the opposing team.
“I’m always in competition with myself,” Vadas said. “My dream would be to have 21 strikeouts in one game, so every single time that I play I always have that in the back of my head, but I’m always trying to beat how many strikeouts I had the last time. I am competing against my own numbers.”
Vadas struck out a career-high 17 last year, a great day save for the four that got away. One gets the sense if Vadas ever threw that perfect game, she would count the number of times batters did not go down on three pitches.
It means there is never a complete sense of satisfaction, which is what has driven Vadas to becoming one of the FCIAC’s top players.
“I’m always going to feel like that,” Vadas said with a smile. “There’s never going to be a point where I’m going to go home and say this was my best game ever. I always go home and think I could have done better. I could have made this break better, I could have hit this spot harder. I’m never satisfied.”
Hopefully Vadas allows herself some moments of contentment because she heads into her senior season with much to celebrate. She was one of the bright spots in the Mustangs’ 11-10 season a year ago, which ended with a second-round loss to eventual Class LL champion Amity.
Vadas, despite missing time on the mound with a shoulder injury, allowed just 49 hits and struck out 111 in 73 innings. Vadas led Warde with a .447 batting average. She had three home runs and 19 RBIs.
Imposing at 5-11, Vadas decided to be a drag on increasing her parents’ frequent flyer miles when she accepted an offer to play next year at Sacred Heart. It is a short road not often traveled, but for Vadas there really was no place like home.
“I really liked Sacred Heart so as soon as they offered me I kind of stopped talking to other schools because I knew I wanted to go there,” Vadas said. “I didn’t always think I wanted to be close. I’m happy I’m staying close because it’s a good support system kind of thing. There’s no reason to go far when there is such a good school literally right there. My parents can see me way easier. I’ll be close to my dogs, which is important.”
Despite the short ride, Vadas is going to live on campus.
“It’s definitely not going to be like I’m staying home,” she said. “I didn’t want that, my parents didn’t want that. They wanted me to have the college experience and live by myself.”
Vadas said her softball career started when she found a Wiffle ball bat in her backyard. The next day her father signed her up to play.
“My dad always wanted me to play sports because he’s a football coach and wanted me to get involved,” said Vadas, whose father Jim is a veteran running backs and linebackers coach on Marce Petroccio’s staff, now at Trumbull.
One has a feeling if Vadas had not happened upon softball, the sport somehow would have found her. It is a 49-week love affair, with a little down time in August.
“I don’t think I could play softball if I wasn’t a pitcher,” Vadas admitted. “It moves fast. I play first sometimes and I get so bored sometimes. Pitching I’m right there every pitch. It’s like an extreme focus kind of thing. I like the challenge of it. It’s the mental challenge. That’s what I like about pitching.”
If Vadas is not working on her pitching, she is doing something that will help her when she is working on her pitching.
“I do a lot of running. Speed helps with pitching,” Vadas said. “If I have nothing to do I will go run or go to the gym and work out.”
Vadas has high expectations for herself and the team this season, which opens on Thursday.
“I want to try and have a more dominating presence on the mound,” she said. “Last year I felt like I had that when we got into the season but this year I want to start dominating. The captains are also trying to motivate the rest of the team to think that we actually can make it far in FCIACs and states.”
After that, Vadas will be on to her next inner battle.
“I put in a lot of work and I’m happy I ended up committing to a school I really like,” Vadas said. “A, for the softball and B, for the school itself. I really like it. I’m happy with where I am but my next goal is to excel in college. In high school I have a lot of fun and I really like playing but college is the next level and I want to see if I can do it. How well I can do it.”
The personal measuring stick right now is 17 strikeouts, a day that Vadas sort of shrugged her shoulders at.
“I could have struck out 18,” she said.