Throwing a perfect game in high school level softball has become a fairly common achievement for Mia Faieta. The Cedar Grove High School senior found herself in familiar territory once again this season with a recent win over Wayne Valley High School 8-0. Having earned a record of 1,000 strikeouts in her high school career, Faieta is on the verge of bringing her team to yet another state championship. Head coach Nicole Velardi said the last time the team won an overall championship was in 2017 with Faieta leading the charge then as well.
Velardi came on in 2015 as junior varsity coach and became head coach a year later. She said that the current seniors have been with her for all four years since leading the team.
“In 2018, we were Essex County champs, wining sectional titles North 1, Group 1, Section 1 champion where we bested Hasbrouck Heights but then we lost to Roselle Park,” she said. “This team is running on pure determination and drive to bring the championship back to Cedar Grove.”
Velardi says Faieta is the drive behind the team’s accomplishments. Currently, the team is on the way to the semi-finals and then the Essex County semi-finals against Livingston.
“We’re pretty good right now, seeded number one for the second year in a row and it’s our second year being league champions,” Velardi added, who had played softball herself when she attended Caldwell University. “It’s our fourth year going for sectional titles and the state tournament. I’ve tried to inspire these girls to do whatever it takes. They’re a great group who have a lot of talent and that makes it a lot easier.”
According to Velardi, Faieta recently reached 1,000 strikeouts during the team’s recent senior night – a record for the team and the high school. Velardi added how amazed those who attend the games are with her pitches because of her ability to tune everything out as if nothing seems to bother her. An example would be instances where the bases are loaded, there are no outs and she goes on to strike out the next three batters.
“Mia is the 19th person to do that in the entire state of New Jersey,” noted Velardi. “She has actually thrown 10 no-hitters this season, which is another impressive accomplishment. Academically, she does really well in school, as well as being a good athlete, so she’s definitely the full package. It was wonderful to see her cross the 1,000 strikeout threshold, and to do it during the team’s senior night, which was so nice.”
Velardi also added that Faieta is at her best when times are toughest. She doesn’t only display her character on the field, but off the field as well, particularly when she’s experiencing a very difficult time.
“In her sophomore year, Mia had to grow up quickly with a health scare for her mother, who was diagnosed with a deadly form of leukemia and had to get treatment in New York City for several months for a high-risk stem cell transplant,” Velardi explained. “She could have wallowed in self-pity and everyone would have understood if she did not do well, but she did the total opposite.”
Velardi noted that many who see her as a successful pitcher think everything comes easy for her. In reality, the experience was extremely challenging for her.
“She had to step up and help at home with cooking, food shopping, laundry and cleaning due to the fact that her mother wasn’t allowed to do any of those household tasks during her recovery. It was hard not having her mother there because she was her first pitching coach, catcher and is her biggest fan,” Velardi said. “She would go into the city with her father and brother every weekend to be with her mother when she wasn’t pitching for the team. Her grades remained excellent and she seemed to take all her accolades in stride, never letting them get to her head. Her teammates look up to her and she continues to help motivate anyone who needs it.”
Faieta is set to attend St. John’s University in New York this September, on a scholarship. She plans to continue playing softball in college.
“As her coach, I can tell you that her road to success was built on her faith in God, hard work, dedication and pure love of the game! We’re all so proud of her!”
Faieta started playing at the age of seven, when her mother encouraged her to play.
“My mother encouraged me to try different sports and was into softball, and played first base a lot,” she recalled. “She one day asked me if I wanted to try pitching, and I did so I started practicing with her former high school coach Ray Vandermay. Everything kind of came full circle.”
She said that trying reach 1,000 strikeouts was always a goal of hers. While a high school a sophomore, she definitely felt it would be attainable. She feels proud that. along with her team, she and Velardi have been together for the past four years and have a real bond.
“They’ve all really supported me and made that moment special when I reached my goal of 1,000,” she added.
Looking towards college, she hopes she can contribute to St. John University’s already competitive softball team. Her athletic scholarship is giving her a full ride.
“I hope to have a successful four years in college and look forward to getting a lot of insight and help from the pitching coach there,” she noted.
As far as softball’s future and popularity, Faieta feel it has grown in leaps and bounds in the last few years.
“It really is a fun game that’s more fast paced than baseball,” she explained. “Just watching the college world series makes you realize what amazing athletes these girls are. You see how far they can hit the ball and make plays. It’s very exciting. Everyone is getting into it and it’s garnering a lot of attention.”