The most decorated player in McNeese State softball history never intended on having a career that would carry her to All-America status and lift a program to prominence all at once.
Erika Piancastelli had more modest expectations after leaving her home in Carlsbad, California, one rooted in simply playing the game she loved at the highest level and going to school.
Piancastelli, who leads McNeese State (42-16) into Friday’s NCAA softball regional against Louisiana-Lafayette (45-6) at LSU’s Tiger Park at 3 p.m., has enjoyed far more than that.
“I just wanted to have fun, get better as a player,” the junior catcher said. “What’s happened, the accomplishments for the team and myself, has exceeded anything I could have thought of. I’m honored to be part of this program, to be able to see it improve and grow.”
Since her arrival three years ago under then coach Mike Smith, Piancastelli has been an big part of the most successful stretch in the 38-year history of McNeese softball — including consecutive Southland Conference tournament championships and NCAA regional appearances for the first time.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “Just seeing our support group, field and fans grow. The level we’re playing at is improving every single day.”
Piancastelli’s been a significant building block in the team’s foundation, becoming captivated with a close-knit environment that reminded her of own family that moved from Modena, Italy, to California when she was 5.
Piancastelli’s become a trendsetter, becoming the school’s first National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American (third team) her freshman season. She's also the first player in Southland Conference history to win Player of the Year — she’s subsequently won it three straight times — Hitter of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the same season.
“I’m still shocked I get some awards,” Piancastelli said. “If I’m doing something I love and improve and get better, the accomplishments that come are a great feeling that all of your hard work has paid off.”
Piancastelli’s love for the game has deep roots. Her mother, Loredana Auletta, was a catcher/third baseman on Italy’s 2000 Olympic team, while her father, Pier, reached the Triple-A level of professional baseball in his hometown of Modena.
Like her mother, Piancastelli has primarily been a catcher.
Most opposing teams don’t challenge Piancastelli’s strong arm. At the plate, she’s enjoyed career totals of a .410 batting average and school records in home runs (58), RBIs (151) and walks (165).
Moreover, Piancastelli’s a six-year member of the Italian national program and has designs of representing Italy in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I always wanted to be like my mom,” she said. “Every year she wants me to be like her, but even better. That drives me to keep getting better every single day.”