By Warren Rappleyea
With four of its best hitters back, Ocean Township High School’s softball should have little trouble producing runs as coach Ryan Pringle looks to solidify the Spartans defense.
Ocean Township, 16-12 a year ago, is also looking to replace its top pitcher, Michaela Pemberton, who graduated in June after hurling the lion’s share of innings for her team last spring.
Once again, the Spartans will look to Giovanna Russomanno to lead the offense. She has only recently begun swinging the bat in earnest after having knee surgery following the spring season, but Pringle expects her to be in form for opening day. The junior third baseman topped the team with a .454 batting average and also whacked a team-leading 11 doubles to go with three home runs, 27 RBIs and 30 runs scored.
Catcher Morgan Walsh is another solid threat for the Spartans. The junior led the team with 32 RBIs and was second with a .437 average and also smacked five round-trippers, while handling the bulk of the duty behind the plate.
Veronica Woehr moves from first base to shortstop for her fourth varsity season after starting out as a catcher. The senior is coming off a .329 showing with four homers, 26 RBIs, 20 runs and a team-leading 15 bases on balls.
“Veronica typifies our team,” Pringle said. “She’ll do whatever needs to be done to help the team. She doesn’t just go to a new position; she works hard to learn how to play the position — and it shows.”
The fourth big bat belongs to sophomore Emma Vassen, who led the team with seven home runs and 31 runs scored to go with 25 RBIs. A year ago, Vassen primarily played right field and also caught on occasion. This time around, she’ll be at first base.
“We know what we have at the plate,” said Pringle, whose team scored 178 runs last season. “We’re still figuring out our pitching and who will be going where on defense.”
Sophomores Gianna Graziano and Morgan Seidenberg will both see action in the circle. Graziano tossed seven innings a year ago and showed promise at the plate, batting .297 with a pair of home runs and nine RBIs. She will likely see time in the field when not pitching.
The outfield spots are wide open, as last year’s starters all graduate. Sophomore Gabby Zimmerman has impressed in center field. Dani Zimmerman is penciled to play left field, with sophomore Kim Schmidt and freshman Carly Weisberg competing for the right field job. Seniors Sophie Kimsey and Hannah Seidenberg are also in the mix. Lexie Agrios will play second base and Taylor Bell, who belted a pair of homers in limited action last year, is the designated player. Both are seniors.
“We’re coming along right now,” Pringle said. “We had our first scrimmages and we did some things very well. We also have a number of things we have to work on. I think our defense will be good. The girls just need a little time working together.”