Manhasset softball’s Cerrone slamming her way into history books

Manhasset softball’s Cerrone slamming her way into history books

Giana Cerrone was rounding third, heading from home, and the idea came to her.

So why not?

This was two years ago, at the beginning of her sophomore softball season at Manhasset. She’d just tattooed a ball from Garden City’s pitcher over the fence, for her first career varsity home run.

She was pumped. Jacked. Overcome with excitement. And she wanted to do something to remember the moment, and that all her teammates would remember to.

So about halfway to the plate, she performed an act Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Aaron Judge has never attempted.

She did a cartwheel. With her helmet on and everything.

“It was my first one!” she recalled the other day, sitting in the Manhasset dugout. “I missed home plate, but otherwise it was awesome.”

Not thinking it was so awesome? The Garden City coaches and players. As soon as she got back to the dugout, Manhasset coach Michael Lewis (no, not this story’s author) had a talk with his shortstop.

He explained that what she did could be perceived as showing up her opponents, and Cerrone immediately understood.
And so in a great example of character, Cerrone apologized in the handshake line to each and every Garden City player, and their coaches.

“Just the kind of kid she is, because she definitely wasn’t doing it to show anyone up,” Lewis said. “She knew she was wrong and really felt bad about it.”

Since that first dinger, Cerrone has hit many more clouts over the fence, and last year she mashed her way into the record books.

Cerrone slugged 16 home runs last season, one shy of the Long Island record of 17, set by Bay Shore’s Darlene Anderson, according to the N.Y. State softball record book. She’s set a goal of 20 round-trippers this season, which would break the state record, and she’s off to a good start, with three homers in Manhasset’s first three games, all wins.

For Cerrone, the thrill of going deep hasn’t faded at all. But for her teammates…

“They don’t even come out of the dugout anymore (to congratulate me),” she said with a big laugh. “They’re like, eh, Giana hit another one, no big deal, we’ve seen it.”

While that’s probably an exaggeration, Manhasset players have gotten used to Cerrone’s greatness at the plate. Last season she batted .785 and drove in 77 runs, helping lead Manhasset to its first conference title since 2009.

So, what does it feel like to smack a ball like it owes you money?

“The ball just seems bigger, and I was making good contact and it was just flying out of there,” Cerrone said. “And when you hit one, the feeling is kind of … indescribable. You just feel so powerful.”

Lewis said his slugger has improved each year since making varsity as a freshman and has become a role model for younger teammates.

“She’s gotten in the weight room and gotten really stronger, and she’s become a lot more flexible,” Lewis said. “The kids see her work ethic, and how she carries herself on the field, and it really helps.”

When someone hits that many home runs in one season, it’s natural to ask: Why were teams pitching to her? Lewis tries to get around that by batting her leadoff, and with Cerrone’s speed, teams know that a walk to her likely means she’ll be on third with two stolen bases before they know it.

“After I hit one in a game they usually pitch behind me or way out of the strike zone,” Cerrone said. “Sometimes I have to get really aggressive and chase pitches. The better pitchers challenge me and it’s fun when that happens.”

For Cerrone, softball passion started in first grade, when she said everyone else she knew was playing lacrosse, but that sport wasn’t for her.

“Softball always seemed way more fun, and the bonding with your teammates lasts forever,” she said. “It’s funny, but softball is a game of failure, but we always find a way to succeed.”

As she grew, Cerrone started playing travel ball, and her skills improved so much that she actually made the Manhasset varsity as an 8th grader.

But after four days of practice in the spring of 2020, Covid-19 shut the season down. So she had to wait until the following year to make her debut, and she hasn’t been out of the lineup since.

College coaches have noticed, and she had some Division I offers. But Cerrone wanted to go to Syracuse University, an Atlantic Coast Conference team, to study business, and hopes to walk on to the team there. First, though, she’s doing a semester abroad in Spain this fall.

“I want to do business like my Dad, maybe buying and selling buildings,” Cerrone said.

“I really hope she plays (at Syracuse), because there’s no doubt she’s a Division I player,” Lewis said.

But first, the dream of hitting 20 homers awaits this spring. Cerrone is doubtful she’ll get it, but then again, she never thought she’d hit 16 last year.

One thing is for sure: If Cerrone hits 20 and sets a new state record? There will be cartwheels in her future.

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