The Pitt News

Q&A with Giorgiana Zeremenko, homegrown slugger

Giorgiana+Zeremenko+%2821%29+broke+Pitt+softball%27s+single-season+home+run+record+in+2016.+Photo+from+Pitt+News+Archives+
Giorgiana Zeremenko (21) broke Pitt softball's single-season home run record in 2016. Photo from Pitt News Archives

Giorgiana Zeremenko (21) broke Pitt softball's single-season home run record in 2016. Photo from Pitt News Archives

Giorgiana Zeremenko (21) broke Pitt softball's single-season home run record in 2016. Photo from Pitt News Archives

By Phoebe Gilmore / Staff Writer

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After leading Canon-McMillan High School to the PIAA softball championship as a junior, local talent Giorgiana Zeremenko has already enjoyed a record-setting career in her first two seasons at Pitt.

The rising junior — known in the clubhouse as “G” — helped the team to its first ACC Tournament appearance in her first year. The Panthers made it all the way to the finals on their way to their first-ever berth in the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament.

As a sophomore, “G” broke Pitt’s single-season record with 17 home runs, while also pacing the team with 52 runs batted in, a .392 batting average and an .888 slugging percentage. The Panthers also made it back to the ACC Tournament for the second consecutive year.

The Pitt News caught up with Zeremenko — who plans to either teach physical health and education or go into physical therapy — to discuss making history with her hometown team, goals for the future, pregame superstitions and modeling Pitt’s new uniforms.

The Pitt News: What are your summer plans, and what do you do to stay in good shape during the offseason?

Giorgiana Zeremenko: First off, to stay in good shape over the offseason, our strength and conditioning coach sends us workouts and running plans. I follow that as best as I can. I’m also going to be working and make some money so I can pay my rent next year. And just keeping up with my softball skills, practicing a few days a week.

[Other than that], hang out with friends — I like to shop, swim, go to a few amusement parks whenever I can. That’s about it.

TPN: Do you have any pregame or postgame rituals?

GZ: Pregame rituals: I have to eat a Clif Bar. It has to be a chocolate brownie one. Kaitlin [Manuel], my teammate, has to braid my hair, and my other teammate Ashlee [Sills] has to pick out my bow.

TPN: How did it feel winning the NCAA tournament as a first-year? What did you do? How was it being part of the first Pitt softball team to make it to the ACC Tournament?

GZ: We freaked out. Watching the show, they got to the last regionals, and we didn’t think that we were going to get in. All of a sudden, we saw our name pop up, and it was exciting. We were yelling and screaming and celebrating. It was unbelievable. No one thought it was going to happen, but then we knew it was go time. We had to show them that we deserved it and it wasn’t a fluke. We were there to play.

Making the [ACC] tournament in the first place was a dream come true. Being a little girl and watching it on TV, that’s your goal. That’s the goal that you have for yourself, to make it there one day. And being a part of the first program in Pitt’s history, especially for my hometown, that’s just awesome, to be able to share that with being local. Let alone doing it for a great university and an awesome athletic department, awesome team. It’s just a great experience overall.

TPN: How about this year, breaking the home run record?

GZ: It’s a good stride, and it just shows that the hard work pays off, but it’s not something that I plan to focus on. It is kind of cool to have your name in the record book, but it’s not going to be something that I’ll strive to do. I’m just going to do what I do.

TPN: Why did you choose to come to Pitt, and what does it mean to you to play for your hometown team?

GZ: I mainly chose Pitt for academic reasons and to be close to my family. I’m very family-oriented. I’m from around here, so I was on the campus all the time. I love it, especially with all the views you get around campus. It’s beautiful. Playing in my hometown is awesome because you always get these little crowds of local people coming to watch you play. They’ve watched you and read about you in the paper. To have them there is kind of cool.

TPN: What changes have you made to your game since coming to Pitt, and how have you improved?

GZ: Mainly, I’ve improved offensively just fixing my stance. Coming in, I was very off balance, and I wasn’t very comfortable with what I was doing. So getting in balance and picking good pitches to hit.

TPN: Who is your favorite athlete and why?

GZ: I would have to say Derek Jeter. Just from growing up and watching baseball, and I have family from New York, so I have a little bit of that background. He’s just one player that always stood out to me. He’s just a legend, one of the best to ever play the game.

TPN: What has been the best moment of your softball career so far?

GZ: Going to the NCAA Regional was by far the best experience I’ve ever had. Like I said before, it was a dream come true with the atmosphere and all the fans. They were there to watch you. You were at the top. It was unbelievable. Making it to the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Regional, it’s different than the state championship was in high school. It’s awesome to go to the next level with a great group of girls and great coaches.

Winning the championship [in high school] is also a dream I had. I was able to win that with friends I’ve had since I was younger and the same coach I’ve had since I was little. We were just one big family.

Zeremenko modeled one of the two new uniforms on May 18 at the Petersen Events Center along with her teammate, Marissa DeMatteo.

TPN: What do you think of the new Pitt script uniforms and how did it feel modeling them at the unveiling?

GZ: Modeling was really fun. My teammate [DeMatteo] and I were trying to think of something cool to do. We were a little nervous at first, but once people started going out there, it was fun. And I really like the new uniforms. I personally like the script more than the block. It’s kind of exciting to have that back. And the uniforms that we tried on, the material was more comfortable than the uniforms we’ve been wearing for the past two years, so I’m pretty excited for that.

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Q&A with Giorgiana Zeremenko, homegrown slugger