Final at-bat at Dayton for Prospect grad Cacini is a blast
Having their seasons cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, college athletes across the country had a spring to forget.
But Dayton shortstop Alyssa Cacini won't forget her last swing of the abbreviates season.
On March 11, Prospect High School's all-time leading home run hitter (27) ended her sophomore season in Ohio in spectacular fashion.
With two outs in the top of the seventh inning against Morehead State, Cacini broke a 1-1 tie with a grand slam that lifted the Flyers to a 5-1 victory in the second game of a doubleheader in Kentucky.
"It's kind of crazy -- even after that game there was never a thought in my mind that it would be our last game of season," Cacini said. "The next day we had a meeting, and it was pretty much 'OK, 'you're going to go home for a two-week break where you have to be off campus, and then you'll come back and we'll resume'. But later that day, we were told everything was canceled."
That seemed to be the only way to cancel out Cacini's hot bat.
She had already hit 5 home runs, just two shy of the 7 she hit as a freshman. She was batting .317 with 15 RBI and 3 doubles in 20 games.
But Cacini was more upset for her teammates, especially the seniors, because the Flyers were on an upswing despite an 8-12 record.
"We were playing some of the top teams in the country," Cacini said. "We went down to Houston and played three strong teams (Oregon, Oregon State and Houston) and we held our own.
"We were playing pretty well against equivalent teams and we were ready to carry things into conference play. The tough schedule was set for a reason. We played well and we were on a good swing."
Cacini's big swing on the grand slam gave the Flyers a sweep of a doubleheader on that final day of the shortened season.
Cacini also homered in the opener.
In that game, freshman Sarah Bailitz (Hersey) struck out a career-high 9 batters. She threw the first 5⅓ innings to get the win (2-1).
Cacini's grand slam also gave the win to Bailitz, who threw the final 1⅔ innings.
"It was definitely a bummer to have to end our season after those two wins but it's reassuring, especially going into next year," Cacini said. "We set a really good culture for next season. That's what we were focusing on and it worked out. To see the results we had is really exciting and let us know that the things we had focused on were working."
Cacini hasn't stopped working on her swing.
She is fortunate to be the daughter of Ron Cacini, the majority owner of The Ballpark (in Mount Prospect), a premiere instructional facility in the Northwest Chicagoland area.
"I just go over there with my dad," Alyssa said of Ron, who was drafted by the Houston Astros. "It's just the two of us in there.
"I'm really lucky to have that. It is weird, a different environment for sure without anyone around. I'll use the batting machine, take tosses from my dad and we'll just do a bunch of drills.
"I know having all these resources available at this time is really rare. It's really a blessing."
Ron Cacini also played basketball at Prospect as did his wife Robyn (Miller), who started on the Knights' only girls basketball team to win a sectional in 1989. Robyn also played softball at Prospect.
"They came to almost all my games this season and my sister (Grace), came to some, too.," Alyssa said. "We were having a great season even if our record didn't show it. I think if you ask every girl on our team they would say we were going to win the conference championship (Atlantic 10)."
Even though she has the option of an extra year of eligibility, Cacini thinks she'll be ready to move on after two more years.
"I think I will be really content with how I end my college career," said Cacini, a communications major with an emphasis on public relations and minor in marketing. "I think I'm in a good spot and I have full confidence in my team. I think I'm going to have the ending that I want."
She had quite a beginning when she was named the school's Female co-Rookie of the Year, sharing the honor with volleyball player Alli Papesh (Minooka), who this year happens to be Cacini's roommate.
Cacini's sister Grace is also a volleyball standout and will play at Adelphi University in Garden City N.Y.
"I'm beyond excited for her, " said Alyssa of her sister, who is Prospect's all-time leader for kills (673). "We are in different seasons so it makes it nice where I can go and see her play.
"I'm definitely going to try and make some of her matches. She has always been such a big supporter of me and I want to support her as well."