BY RYAN COBB Sports writer

Hard work and persistence can lead to great things for an athlete as so long as they continue to strive to get better each day.

That mindset has worked wonders for Rome Free Academy softball pitcher Halie Schoff.

Ever since she was able to pick up a bat and a ball, to her days in Little League, the senior hurler Schoff has worked diligently to improve her craft by hitting the gym every day and going to several pitching clinics on her own accord. Because of that determination, it has led to her becoming the RFA softball team’s No. 2 starter in the rotation.

"She has an unbelievable work ethic and always does the extra stuff like running, hitting the weight room, pitching on weekends," said RFA coach Jerry Tabolt. "She started as a thrower and has become a pitcher. She’s worked on her location and it’s showing a lot. She had her own pitching people she was going to but it has helped."

With the game of softball running through her veins since the age of 3, Schoff began learning how to throw on the mound since she was 9 years old and has learned to toss an arsenal of pitches, including a screwball, changeup, dropball, drop curve, and her favorite, a regular curveball to the team’s catcher Kaysie Gregory.

"Kaysie and I really like the changeup, but my personal favorite would have to be the curve," Schoff said. "Just the way it moves. It’s kind of a natural pitch for me, like skipping a rock. That’s how it comes off."

Since making the varsity team as a sophomore, Schoff has gotten out 94 batters out on strikes through 120 innings while carrying a career earned run average of 3.20 and an 11-10 overall mark up until Tuesday.

This season, she sports a 4-5 record, giving up 29 runs on 41 hits through 62 innings with 67 strikeouts. Before her start in RFA’s 3-2 loss to Syracuse East on Tuesday, her ERA sat at 1.72.

Schoff said having to transition into the next level wasn’t that much difficult for her.

"When you come up as a 10th grader and you’re playing with these huge girls, who are seniors, it’s really intimidating at first and then I felt like it was so good for me," she said.

"I’ve always played with older girls and most people would think it’s a scary thing, but it was a natural step for me."

After three years of being on varsity and striving to get the best out of her abilities, all of her hard work paid off on April 17 when she flirted with perfection.

During RFA’s 5-0 victory over Central Square, Schoff was pitching a perfect game up until the top of the seventh inning with one out. Perfection though would not come on that day for her as she gave up a clean single from Central Square’s second batter through the infield between third base and the shortstop.

"She had command on every pitch and they weren’t even close to hitting the ball, but it was a clean base hit," said Tabolt. "I knew what was going on. When a pitcher has a perfect game or a no-hitter going, you don’t say anything to them. Knowing Halie and how smart she is, I think she knew what was going on and she deserved one."

Schoff said getting a perfect game is a goal that she hopes to achieve someday.

"That would’ve been a cherry on top," she said. "The first few innings when the scorekeeper would tell me how many strikeouts I would have, I didn’t want to tell myself that I had a perfect game going. You don’t want to keep telling yourself that because it gets inside your head. You have to keep throwing how you can."

Her hard work has also been an inspiration to her teammates as they elected her as a team captain for the season. Schoff felt the reason for that was her willingness to help them out as much as she can.

"I’m always so willing to stay after (practice) and take a few extra ground balls with the girls," she said. "We’re not only a team, we’re a family and family is like a very big important part of the game. We got to have chemistry and connection. I feel like I’ve definitely contributed to put that together."

After graduation, Schoff will attend St. John Fisher in the fall and will major in pharmacy. She will also look to attend try-outs for the college’s softball team and try to prove to head coach Len Maiorani that she belongs and can contribute.

Tabolt said when the season ends, the program will certainly miss her.

"What she does off the field, I hope some of our younger kids looked at her and see what she has done to get where she needs to be," he said. "She’s a gym rat, a role model and we’re going to miss her being with us."

Schoff already feels the varsity team, which has a record of 7-12 this season, is improving and will continue to do so as long as the passion of the game stays strong.

"That’s the biggest thing. Keeping girls active in the offseason and them wanting to be at practice," she said.

"If we let things get in our head that makes us fall apart, but we have a talented group of girls her now. It’s just that it’s all in our heads when we do fall apart. I think if we do get rid of it, we can really make a stand in sectionals and make some noise in the Syracuse area."