During her sophomore and junior softball seasons at Coal City High School, Molly Manietta slugged a combined 13 home runs and totaled 52 RBI, earning MDH All-Area recognition both times.
When Manietta is asked about her softball ability — and it is the kind of ability that will allow her to play at the NCAA Division I level — she acknowledges she profiles best as a slugger.
"I definitely consider myself a power hitter more than anything else," Manietta said.
Manietta has the remainder of the current prep season to add to those numbers before taking the next step. In November, she signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic and athletic careers at Youngstown State University. She is receiving a scholarship, which will fully cover her tuition.
Two successful visits helped Youngstown State win out in a college search that also included the University of St. Francis, the University of Illinois-Springfield, and North Central College. The school's Youngstown, Ohio, location was another factor.
"One reason was I wanted to go away to college. When I went out to visit, I really, really liked the campus and all that it had to offer," Manietta said. "My first visit out there was in August, and I met with the coaches. Then my second visit was just a month or two ago. I stayed with some of the softball girls and got to watch practices."
In addition, Manietta may be able to earn significant playing time right away at first base for the Penguins. Sophomores Sarah Ingalls and Courtney Ewing have essentially split playing time at the position in 2012 after longtime starter Kim Klonowski was lost to graduation.
"The coaches have said I have a unique opportunity," Manietta said. "They don't have an upperclass first baseman. I feel like if I work hard enough, there is a good chance I will be playing my first year."
Penguins head coach Brian Campbell confirmed no established incumbent figures to stand between Manietta and the job.
"Young ladies have to earn their spots, of course," he said. "Presently we're rotating a couple kids this year and (Manietta) will certainly have the chance to compete for the position. Of the two we have there now, one (Ewing) is actually an outfielder.
"Molly may also have an opportunity at other positions. That is to be determined. Right now, we're looking at her at first base. She played a very solid first base when we were recruiting her. ... At the Division I level, you have to put your best nine players on the field, and we do make some shifts, but I would say we are looking at Molly as a first baseman at least as a freshman."
Throughout her softball career, with the exception of her sophomore season at CCHS, Manietta has played first base. That season, when the Lady Coalers went 40-0 and won the Class 2A state championship, Kristen Arndt was entrenched as the varsity first baseman, so Manietta played third base.
"I played first base pretty much my entire life," she said. "I've been playing first base, but on (college information forms) I filled out, I would say I could play the corner positions, that I can play first or third."
No matter where Manietta plays, she will bring to the Pengiuns batting skills that she honed while playing with the Morris Magic and New Lenox Lightning travel teams, in addition to the Lady Coalers. In addition to her power, Campbell recruited her because of her patience. Manietta drew 23 walks during an All-Conference junior season at CCHS.
"She is a power hitter, but the discipline she has at the plate is what sets her apart," Campbell said. "Many younger players are more aggressive and swing at pitches outside of the zone. Molly adjusts to the umpire's zone and then stays in the umpire's zone and that gives her the ability to select better pitches to hit."
Manietta is not the first member of her family who will play a college sport. Older sister Brittni, a 2009 graduate of CCHS, has played volleyball at Kankakee Community College and Benedictine University.
According to the Benedictine volleyball website, Brittni Manietta is planning to become an ultrasound tech. Molly also plans a career in medicine.
"I am expecting to go into the medical field and, possibly, to become a laboratory technologist," Molly said. "I like science, chemistry and math, and I would pretty much like to be not the person drawing someone's blood, but the person testing their blood."