When Lisa Barbaro recruited Stacy Pouliot, she figured the Fitch High School softball standout would make an impact on the collegiate level.
Barbaro, the Southern Connecticut State University coach, certainly was right.
Now a junior, Pouliot is the starting catcher for the Owls, who have reached the NCAA Division II East Super Regionals for the first time in program history.
"Stacy has been an incredible asset to the team," Barbaro said. "She's had a great immediate impact. ... She's an excellent leader and has done a great job behind the plate for us as well as offensively."
SCSU (40-10) plays Molloy (46-11) in a best-of-three series starting today in New Haven. The winner advances to the College World Series.
Pouliot spent this week finishing up finals and preparing for this week's tournament action.
"It's been very hectic, especially during finals week, and we're obviously practicing every day," Pouliot said. "It's exhausting, really."
Pouliot is playing some of the best softball of her career during the postseason. She made the Northeast-10 all-tournament team after batting .364 and then helped the Owls win three NCAA games last week. Overall, she has a .293 average with two home runs and 21 RBI and has developed a reputation as a clutch hitter.
Her defensive skills are noteworthy, too.
In a 5-4 win over UMass Lowell Saturday, Pouliot blocked the plate and prevented the potential game-tying run from scoring to end the game. SCSU beat Caldwell 4-1 on Sunday to advance to the Super Regional.
Pouliot never hesitated to make the tough defensive play despite playing with a chronic ankle injury.
Her bad ankle, which will be operated on for a second time after the season ends, has hampered her since last fall. But Pouliot has pushed through the pain and made just two errors this season.
"She's a very tough kid," Barbaro said. "She's handled it well."
Pouliot also has handled everything well off the field. She was recently named an Academic All-District selection by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
An athletic training major, she hopes to work in a clinic or hospital someday.
"She's a very bright girl," Barbaro said. "She's one of the top academic performers. That carries over to the game and her knowledge of the game as well."
Since arriving at Southern, Pouliot has experienced a growth spurt as a catcher. As a freshman, she benefitted from playing behind senior Kristle Lee.
She also credits assistant coach Paul Raccio for improving her technique and skill level behind the plate. She earned All-Northeast-10 first team honors this spring.
"Our coaching staff is very supportive and has taught us a lot about the game of softball and ourselves," Pouliot said.
Pouliot is hoping the Owls continue their magical run this weekend. Southern swept a doubleheader against Molloy earlier this season.
Playing big postseason games is nothing new to Pouliot, who helped Fitch win a Class LL state championship in 2009.
Some of her former Falcons teammates are also having successful college softball careers.
Courtney Weber and Arielle Cooper are playing for Eastern Connecticut State University in the NCAA Division III championship tournament this week. She also remains close with Brittany Duclos who's at UConn.
"It's kind of cool," Pouliot said. "Everyone is doing well."