The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Now-senior Bella Fiorentino runs to first base after hitting the ball into the outfield during a game against Columbia on March 20, 2022.

Credit: Samantha Turner

Each day, the Class of 2023’s Commencement grows nearer. And with it, every senior nears the closing of another chapter in their lives.

Bella Fiorentino — softball pitcher and team captain — understands the gravity of it all.

The senior from Santa Margarita, Calif. started her softball journey back when she was just five years old, inspired by her older sister, who played catcher. Flash forward 16 years, and now Fiorentino is in the midst of her final campaign for the Red and Blue. Being out on the diamond one last time has meant the world to her, especially given that this season was almost cut too short.  

A month ago, while playing in Florida, Fiorentino tore her ACL. With an injury like that, it looked to some like her season  — and Penn career — would be over. But Fiorentino decided to delay surgery and its months of recovery time until after the season, instead focusing on being able to get back on the diamond as quickly as possible. 

“She’s got a lot of fight and is very gritty,” her fellow senior captain Sarah Schneider said.

Fiorentino has always remained focused on being available for her team. She thanks the supportive staff, from the trainers to the sports medicine doctors to the nutritionists for helping her in the process. Her coaches and teammates have also been especially vital in her recovery.

“It’s challenging, but with their support, my teammates' support, my coaching support, it’s made it a lot easier,” Fiorentino said. “So when I show up and I’m not at 100%, they pull that 100% out of me because they know I can and they’re gonna believe [in] me even when I don’t.”

It’s the love for her teammates that has made wearing the Red and Blue so special for Fiorentino. The team's chemistry and energy create magical memories she’ll remember long after her last inning.

There are so many memories she’s made with Penn softball — from a 12-inning thriller over Cornell to a shutout against Brown to a walk-off 6-7 victory off a home run over the right field fence.

“That was absolutely one of my favorite memories,” Fiorentino said of the walk-off. While not the hitter, she was one of two players to score off that play. “The team was just electric. That’s the only [way] I can explain that energy.”

This season, she also has the honor of being the captain and leading a group of teammates that she really cherishes. She serves alongside junior outfielder Brianna Brown and Schneider. Because Schneider and Fiorentino are both California natives, they took the same red-eye flight to Philadelphia for their first official visit together; it was the start of their friendship. Now it has blossomed into co-captainship – a role that Schneider thinks Fiorentino works well in.

“[Fiorentino] and I have very different personalities,” Schneider said, referring to their captaining styles. “I’m very direct and to the point, and she’s very thoughtful. We complement each other very well. We’re able to have those tough conversations, and she builds very great relationships, so between the two of us we’re able to tackle a lot.”

Being thoughtful and conscientious is integral to who Fiorentino is and especially important for what she wants to take on after Commencement: law school. 

She came to Penn with a wildly different vision of what she’d study. Initially, Fiorentino wanted to design roller coasters, but she was encouraged to branch out of her comfort zone by her teammates. She took "History of Law." That class completely pivoted her thinking and inspired her to consider different career aspirations. It also helped that she hated linear algebra her freshman spring. The more pre-law classes she took, the more drawn to it she became.

“I like how it’s not necessarily black-and-white and how you can make a good argument and completely sway someone,” Fiorentino said. “It’s very persuasion-based.”

Coming to Penn gave her the opportunity to explore this path, and she’s grateful for it. Over the course of the past four years, Fiorentino has felt that she has been able to come into her own. And after playing softball since she was five years old, she felt that she had little distinction between her identity as a person and as an athlete.

“Playing softball all but two weeks out of the year, I didn’t have time to develop who I was as Bella the softball player or Bella the individual – they were the same person,” Fiorentino said of her time before college. “But for me, at Penn, I got to find [who] I was away from my sport and grow that aspect of myself.”

Her desire to carve out her individuality away from softball does not mean she loves the game any less. Fiorentino says she’ll miss softball so much, from her teammates to the competition. It’s the sport she loves and that has meant the world to her for so long. And the ACL injury and looming graduation have served as reminders of that for her.

“I think now everything I do is a bonus,” Fiorentino said. “People told me I wouldn’t play softball again — it wasn’t in the cards — and instead I choose to prove them wrong every day, and that’s a bonus. Every pitch is a bonus rep. It’s a bonus opportunity to do what I’ve loved for 16 years.”

There are 12 games and 35 days left in this chapter. And then, for Fiorentino, it’s on to the next one.