PS Solutions’ Merilli Brings Leadership to Penn State Altoona Women’s Softball
Seems baseball can really influence a lot. It’s been known to develop more than one leader – and more
than one leading developer. It requires a clear understanding of math, statistics, teamwork and a keen
eye for those who can be coached.
PS Solutions’ co-founder Joe Merilli has had baseball in his blood since he was in Little League. He
wanted to pass along his love of the game once he had kids, but with three daughters he switched to
softball. One of his daughters (Miranda) started playing t-ball when she was four years old and later
started pitching with Dad in the back yard. Dad coached the t-ball team and went to coach’s clinics to
make sure he was teaching the correct softball mechanics to his teams as instructed by the best college
coaches in the game.
Eventually, Joe started one of the first local travel teams (Altoona Express) for 10u, 12u and 14u players.
The Altoona Express allowed the players to see a higher level of competition and travel all over the east
coast. Altoona Express teams traveled as far as Disney World in Florida to compete. Miranda
eventually out grew the local scene and the decision was made she would try out for a larger travel
organization in Pittsburgh and she made it. Dad eventually was asked to coach one of those teams and
they traveled from Michigan to Florida to tournaments.
By the time high school came around, Merilli was hired to coach that team and took a perennial losing
team to winning 59 out of 71 games and a date in the Western State Finals and were among the best
teams in the State in their Division. Miranda finished her high school career as one of the most
decorated pitchers in Blair County History.
On to College: The stakes grow
When Joe’s daughter went off to pitch for NYU Polytechnic’s softball team, he stayed home coaching his
winning Bishop Guilfoyle team. But that wouldn’t be for long. The head coach at NYU Polytechnic had
lost one of his coaches and asked if Joe would be interested?
“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Joe replied. “You really should ask your star pitcher.” When she said yes,
he became NYU Polytechnic’s pitching coach. After a couple of years there, and while being courted by
Hunter College to be their pitching coach, Guilfoyle called to request he return. Apparently, they hadn’t
won since he left, so Joe stepped in for a season and lead the team back to playoffs, losing only by one
run in the District playoffs.
During that year, the Head Coaching Position had opened at Joe’s alma mater – Penn State Altoona --
and it didn’t take long for the two to get together and announce that Joe would be the next head coach
of Women’s Softball at the school. In his first year at PSU Altoona, the team surprised everyone by
finishing tied for first place in the conference with a 15-3 record. Over the past 4 years the team has
been regularly at the top end of the conference and this year looks very promising also, even with four
first year pitchers.
Technology and Baseball
When asked why he’s such a good softball coach, Joe always starts with the love of the game. But in
college coaching, he swears that success is about recruiting the right players. It’s about getting the right
talent, those that understand team play. Interestingly enough – that’s what he does at PS Solutions, too.
Joe says that team sports are different today than they’ve ever been, that technology and social media
play a huge role now. It’s not all the bad stuff – like having the discipline to put down that phone when
you’re in team-time. Merilli has a strict rule: no cell phones at practice, when eating together, nor at
games. He swears that no team can win if they don’t talk to each other, creating relationships and
bonding as a team.
But technology also helps them win. It’s about the strategies developed – and about the data generated,
tabulated, and analyzed.
“I always have used spreadsheets and charts to know my team and my competition,” said Merilli. “I
chart every pitch we throw. We know how every batter we face hits. We take that data and determine
what pitch to call against every batter. It’s a combination of teamwork, talent and data that lets us have
fun while attempting to outmaneuver the other team.”
There’s no crying in this baseball
In A League of their Own
, Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks) ‘coaches’ the girls to tears. Joe used to
coach a lot like Dugan…especially with his daughter and the talented high school teams he had. But
times are changing and Joe will regularly tell you that he has mellowed a bit on the field. He still expects
a lot from his players, especially from the most talented ones. He will tell you that he loves a well
pitched, well fielded game. But this year, the team is scoring more runs and winning some games with
“We have a really good team this year, with four really good first year pitchers. But this may be the best
hitting team we have had a long time. We won six games in a row in Florida, because we hit well all
For Merilli, the game looks at all sides of the players, and lets everyone develop strong skills in new
ways. Just like the developers he works with all day, who might be great at Java but surprising him
when they take on other object-oriented systems.
From all of us at PS Solutions, we wish the Penn State Altoona Lions 2019 roster a world full of luck.
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