When you ask coaches about the top pitching prospects in travel ball today, many ask in turn, “Have you seen the 2022 kid out of Buffalo, New York?”
Better known for snow, chicken wings, ice hockey, and the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo is home to one of the best 2022 right-handed pitchers in the country, Sydney Berzon (LSU-commit).
Berzon started playing softball in a local recreational league at four years old. “I participated with this house league for multiple years before I started travel ball. I started playing softball because my brother played baseball in the same league, and I wanted to play like him,” Berzon explained.
With longer winters, softball is limited in Buffalo to a summer sport. “The fluctuation of the weather back home creates a challenge for softball. Overall it’s a great sport back home but it will not necessarily get you to the top college of your dreams (because of the weather),” described Berzon. Her zeal for softball emboldened her to train year around.
She credits her foundation as a pitcher to pitching coach Mike Muhleisen, beginning her lessons when she was eight years old. It was coach Muhleisen that recommended that Berzon attend a pitching clinic in Indiana just a few years ago.
The clinic proved to be life-changing in many ways. Not only was she learning from one of the best spin coaches in the country, Rick Pauley, but Berzon also met Brandon Carr, another well-recognized pitching coach that works with the Fury Platinum organization.
The Berzon family stayed in touch with Coach Carr and later made a few trips to Knoxville, Tennessee to work with Carr. Carr recognized the rare talent in Berzon. One fate filled weekend brought Berzon to Tennessee the same weekend that Fury Platinum 14U coaches, Pat Hughes, and Jimmy Hutchins were holding a workout for potential players.
She took part in the tryout, with the recommendation from Carr and impressed Hughes and Hutchins and was immediately offered a spot on the 14U roster.
Berzon went to the Fury Platinum organization with a desire to eventually play softball in the south or in the Southeastern Conference. During her first year, she immediately attracted the attention of many SEC schools.
Although she found interest in all of them, she quickly fell in love with the coaching staff and feel at Louisiana State University. When the offer came, Berzon didn’t hesitate and made her commitment to LSU prior to the recruiting rule change.
“My favorite thing about the recruiting process was being able to go on unofficial visits,” explained Berzon as she had the opportunity to visit some of the top softball programs in the country.
Berzon led Fury Platinum’s 14U team to Championships at Atlanta Legacy as well as the USA JO Cup in St. Louis, Missouri. She dominated during the week of the USA JO Cup, striking out 54 batters in 33 innings. She held batters to a .152 BA and held a .663 ERA. Not only did she dominate the circle but also hit .519.
Her love for the south and her team has led to her decision to enroll at the Baylor School, for the current school year. The Baylor School is a boarding school in Chattanooga Tennessee.
“At Baylor, I am able to participate with an amazing softball program all year long. The weather is a big difference. Being in the south, I am able to play softball outside, almost all year long." Berzon said. "The weather has permitted me to get practice and playing time in during months that, back home, I wouldn’t have been able to play in and I love being able to board down here being close to my softball family." The Baylor School has won 12 State Softball Tiles since the mid-90s, and the addition of Berzon for the next four years has elevated their ability to continue that winning tradition.
It was the not so subtle limitations coaches put on pitchers that motivated her. You have to be a spin pitcher or a speed pitcher, but you can’t be both. “Always being told I could only be one, drove my determination to be effective with both speed and spin.” Berzon said. “In the circle, I work with multiple pitches, with different speeds and types of spin. Throughout all my pitches, my speed ranges from 50mph-66mph, and my spin can range from 15rpm-34rpm.”
One club coach that faced Berzon at Atlanta Legacy said, “Berzon was clearly the best pitcher we faced in the tournament, and all summer. She brought power, great command and her movement is very evident.”
Berzon’s coach, Jimmy Hutchins paid the ultimate praise when describing his pitcher by saying, “Sydney is willing to put the time in to have the chance to be special. She is goal driven and expects to work hard and understands to play at the next level she needs to continue improving every year. Humble in a unique way while keeping a 'swag' on the mound. Her willingness to challenge herself, ask questions, and expect others to have the same work ethic as she does will continue to drive her success.”