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Jersey Blues softball adds speed for more potent lineup

first_img Above: Brookdale Community College pitcher Courtney Semkewycz winds up to deliver a pitch during the April 1 game against Ocean County College in Lincroft. Semkewycz tossed a one-hit shutout as Brookdale scored an 11-0 win. Right: Brookdale second baseman Taylor Sheridan, left, looks to turn a double play as Ocean’s Kara Molnar is late sliding into second base. Weather was an early season opponent for the Brookdale Community College softball team.Veteran head coach Bo Scannapieco said 1994 was the last time he remembered field conditions being as bad as they were this year. The Jersey Blues weren’t able to play a home game until April 1 and hadn’t practiced on their own diamond. They played their first official home games at Count Basie Field in Red Bank — home of Red Bank Catholic High School.The Jersey Blues have handled the adversity quite well, however. They were 11- 4 through their first 15 games, which included their usual trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in March. They were ranked No. 4 in the country in the latest National Junior College Athletic Association Division III softball poll. PHOTOS BY STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Despite a lack of practice time, Scannapieco likes the way his Brookdale team is playing in early April.“There’s a lot of good things I see,” he said. “We played really well [in South Carolina]. That was a positive.”The way the Jersey Blues performed when they finally got to play on their home diamond was positive, too. They beat Ocean County College by identical 11-0 scores in sweeping the April 1 twinbill in Lincroft.The big surprise in the early going has been Brookdale’s defense. Despite the lack of practice time on the field, the Jersey Blues’ defense has been exceptional.“We’re strong defensively,” Scannapieco said. “Shortstop Cassie Varvaro (Toms River East) is the glue.“All of our outfielders are good defensively, and Jacquie Coulahan (Howell) is doing a good job at third base.”First baseman Caroline Abin (Peddie School) and Taylor Sheridan (Keyport), who has played three different positions, shore up the infield. Center fielder Amanda Pringle (Wall) is the mainstay in the outfield.The Jersey Blues have three dependable catchers in Alexandria Montefinese (Monmouth Regional), Morgan Schweitzer (Monroe Township) and Victoria Mettlen (St. Rose).The biggest difference between this Brookdale team and the one that finished third at last year’s National Junior College Athletic Association championships is their ability to create offense. Last year, the team lacked small ball capability.“We struggled last year at the nationals to score runs,” said Scannapieco, who has led Brookdale to three national championships. “I’ve added some athletes and speed.“We’re able to manufacture runs and take the extra base. Our base running is good, and we’re going to stress that more — be more aggressive.”That was on full display in the home opener when the Jersey Blues used small ball, bunts and stolen bases that were turned into big innings.Brookdale has swiped 28 bases in 32 attempts, helping the offense average more than eight runs a game thus far. Varvaro is a See the video perfect 9 for 9 www.gmnews.com stealing bases.Pringle and Varvaro are the catalysts at the top of the lineup who have been using their speed to set the table.Varvaro has scored 22 runs and is batting a ridiculous .638 with a .707 on-base percentage (OBP). She has 30 hits already. The freshman was recently selected as the Garden State Athletic Conference Player of the Week.Pringle is batting .396 with a .442 OBP.Outfielder Sara Vocisano (Piscataway) is the team’s top run producer with 21 RBIs and 17 runs scored. The sophomore is batting .460 with six doubles, a triple and a .500 OBP.Abin is batting .479 with 19 RBIs, a coteam high of 22 runs and a .519 OBP.Sheridan is batting an otherworldly .605 with 22 runs scored, matching Abin and Varvaro for the team lead. She has 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases. Her two home runs lead the team.Pitcher Courtney Semkewycz (Henry Hudson) has nine extra base hits — seven doubles, a triple and a home run. The sophomore has 15 RBIs and 18 runs scored and is batting .463 with an OBP of .542. Alexandra Clayton (Wall) has 16 RBIs and 12 runs scored while batting .343.Semkewycz, Victoria Vogt (County Prep), Kaitlyn Kretzmer (St. Rose) and Kirby Marron (Wall) make up the pitching rotation.It was Semkewycz and Kretzmer who tossed those back-to-back shutouts against Ocean, with Semkewycz throwing a one-hitter.Semkewycz is 5-1 and pitching to a 1.43 ERA, while Vogt is 4-0 with a 4.25 ERA.The rotation does not have dominating a strikeout pitcher, so the most important thing for the Jersey Blues’ hurlers is to throw strikes, stay away from walks and let the defense do its job. It’s working pretty well thus far. Completing the 2015 Jersey Blues are Brianna Calabrese (Red Bank Regional), Sara Case (St. Rose) and Gianna Mauro (Monmouth Regional).Brookdale concluded an eight-game home stand April 8 in a doubleheader against the County College of Morris.That is followed by a road trip to Middlesex County College April 9. Then it’s back to Lincroft for doubleheaders with Cumberland County College (April 11), Harford Community College (April 12), Union County College (April 13) and Burlington County College (April 15). By TIM MORRIS Staff Writer last_img

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