Tuckerton/Little Egg Harbor Leader Spring Sports Previews

Pinelands Regional Faces Tough Climb in B South Softball

Apr 05, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy After three seasons of primarily playing an infield position, senior Ally Vezos takes over the pitching duties and will try to lead the Pinelands Regional softball team to another winning season.

As the cycle goes in high school sports, there are times when a team graduates a player or two and it instantly causes the next season to be an uphill climb. One of those times has arrived for Pinelands Regional softball coach Keith Lowe and his Wildcats.

“This is a unique time in our program, and it’s going to require that I learn some new things and be patient,” said Lowe, referring to the graduation of former pitcher Jessie Rising, now playing at Division I Manhattan College. “We’ve been fortunate for the past six or seven years to have two great pitchers, and now we’re relying on a senior who hasn’t pitched much for us to step in and get the job done.”

Ally Vezos is a tough, gritty, fiery competitor with plenty of travel-ball experience in the pitcher circle. But with Rising pitching most high school varsity games the past three seasons in a tough Shore Conference division, Lowe had no reason to put the weight of pitching duties on Vezos’ shoulders.

“Ally can pitch, for sure,” Lowe said. “She has a good mentality and a lot of toughness. And once she finds her groove, she’ll keep us in most games. She’s trained hard during the offseason to be our go-to girl. But what I told her is that I just want her to be Ally Vezos, not Jessie Rising or Naomi Stas (who pitched before Rising). I don’t want her to try to be anything or anybody other than who and what she is.”

Of course, with a new full-time pitcher in the circle, that adds a little more pressure on the catcher to be defensively sound, and a bit more assertive as a field general for the infield. Fortunately, senior Teresa Hudson has the defensive part down. Now she, too, has to become more of a leader.

“Those two returning seniors need to take ownership of that role,” Lowe said. “They have the experience, but we’re going to need their leadership to help out our younger kids.”

With only three others returning to the roster from last year – junior outfielders Jordan Leeds and Adrianna Dancisin, as well as junior infielder Alyssa Rodriguez – there are plenty of young and inexperienced varsity players on the team this spring.

Seniors Gabby Gordon, an outfielder, and Isabelle Boyer, an infielder, have joined the varsity squad to help fill some graduation voids, particularly that of former four-year starter and second baseman Brianna Suralik. A slew of sophomores have been called up to add more depth, including pitcher/infielder Mickenzie Horay; infielders Chloe Hayek, Kaitlyn Edwards and Morgan Muller; and outfielders Kayla Graver and Amber Huminski.

Shortstop Jessica Cheney, catcher/infielder Rebekka Conrad and infielder Kayla Weber are the three freshmen rounding out the roster for this spring.

“We’re going need to be consistent on offense,” Lowe said. “We have some pretty good hitters and some speed, so we’re going to play small in a lot of games, probably more than we have in the past. But our biggest thing is going to be defense. Against teams in our division, we’re going to have to make the routine plays and not extend innings, or we’re not going to win many games.”

In a division featuring state power Donovan Catholic, very good squads at Lacey and Jackson Liberty, always-tough Manchester and a much improved Barnegat crew, the margin for error is very limited. The Wildcats will have to find their way amid some struggle.

“Our girls are working hard. And what I really need from them is to come ready to play every day because in our division there aren’t many easy games,” Lowe said. “If we can get all the girls to believe in themselves, things will progress. They just have to work through their inexperience and be patient with each other.”

David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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