Fortier makes good first impression

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Gillian Fortier of Naugatuck had a sensational freshman season with the Albertus Magnus softball team. –CONTRIBUTED
Gillian Fortier of Naugatuck had a sensational freshman season with the Albertus Magnus softball team. –CONTRIBUTED

NEW HAVEN — There’s one moment from Gillian Fortier’s sensational freshman season with the Albertus Magnus softball team that sticks out in coach Ed Emielita’s mind.

“We played against Emmanuel in Boston,” Emielita recalled. “She hit a homer in one at-bat and they were trying to pitch around her (in a later at-bat). The pitcher missed her spot, right into Gillian’s zone, and she hit an RBI double. She can do damage even when they’re trying to pitch around her.”

It was that kind of season for Fortier, the former four-time All-Stater at Naugatuck High.
In that particular game April 16, she went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs in a 4-2 victory. It followed a nearly identical game in the first half of the doubleheader, when she was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs.

That doubleheader wasn’t an aberration, either.

Two weeks ago, Fortier swept the Great Northeast Athletic Conference’s postseason awards. Not only did she gain a spot on the All-GNAC first team, but the third baseman was named the GNAC Rookie of the Year and the GNAC Player of the Year.

And still, the soft-spoken criminal justice major doesn’t understand all the fuss.

“It wasn’t overwhelming at all,” Fortier said. “It didn’t even cross my mind. For me, I wasn’t going to make it that big of a deal.”

It’s a big deal, though, when a player — especially a rookie — bats .484 to lead the conference and sets a school’s single-season record.

Fortier boasts a .718 slugging percentage, a .518 on-base percentage, 31 RBI, 37 runs and four homers in 37 games. Her selection to the All-GNAC first team made her the first Albertus Magnus player to earn that honor since 2003.

But opposing teams took notice of Fortier well before she captured all the postseason accolades, and it didn’t take her long into her collegiate career to recognize where she stood.

“Once we got a week or two into the season, all the coaches had been seeing me,” Fortier said. “They’d go tell other coaches what I had, so it would be like high school where teams would work around me.”

Emielita and his coaching staff were plenty familiar with Fortier’s high school days at Naugatuck, as she was on their radar almost the entire time.

“I met her father (Scott) at a showcase, and he just started asking me some questions,” said Emielita, the GNAC Coach of the Year. “We kept open lines of communications.”

Fortier ended up at the New Haven school after playing in Emielita’s summer organization and seeing the university as a fit for her goals.

“I picked Albertus because the coaches seemed nice enough to where they’d push me, but recognize that I had a balance with school,” Fortier said. “I really liked the criminal justice program here.”

Despite the history between Fortier and the staff, Emielita said Fortier had to earn the starting spot at third base from scratch.

“We just sat back and let Gillian win the position,” Emielita said. “She had to earn her spot and she did that in fall ball. The intensity she brings to the game and her knowledge of the game is great. She won it on her own.”

It didn’t take Fortier long to exceed her own expectations.

“I wasn’t expecting the season that I had,” Fortier said. “I was expecting something as the underdog, not knowing what was coming my way. Once I realized what I could do with what I had, I figured I could make it like high school.”

Fortier’s stats and awards deservedly garner attention throughout the league, but Emielita thinks the most intimidating part of Fortier’s game doesn’t show up on paper.

“She really hits the ball hard,” Emielita said. “Just (because of) that in itself, other teams knew right away who Gillian Fortier was. Her fielding was great at third base. It was an adjustment in a way from playing shortstop, but defensively she’s been great.”

Albertus Magnus reached the GNAC championship round this season before losing to Johnson and Wales twice on the final day of the tournament. The Falcons fell to top-seeded Brandeis 9-4 in the ECAC Division III New England Championship on May 10.

The squad’s future looks bright with their top three hitters — including Fortier — all set to return next year.

“We’re really excited with Gillian,” Emielita said. “Next year we’re going to be playing on a fenced (home) field, so she’s going to have an opportunity to hit a lot more home runs. I think she, along with the rest of our players, is going to lead us back to the championship game and we’re going to win it.”