By Wayne Witkowski
New Egypt High School’s softball team again extended its season into June, advancing to its sixth straight NJSIAA sectional championship game, this time in Central Jersey, Group I. The Warriors’ baseball team hoped to do the same when it played in the section semifinals May 31 at Pitman High School.
New Egypt’s softball team won the South Jersey, Group I title last season and has been riding the arm of veteran pitcher Faith Weber to a 16-7 record. The Warriors await the winner of a May 31 sectional semifinals game between Riverside High School and Henry Hudson Regional High School for the finals June 3.
Earlier this season, New Egypt beat Riverside (18-4), 7-4, for a second straight Burlington County Scholastic League (BCSL) Tournament championship (fifth overall), while Henry Hudson (15-7) beat New Egypt last year in the Group I semifinals after Henry Hudson winning the Central Jersey, Group I title.
New Egypt’s baseball team puts its 14-6 record on the line in the South Jersey, Group I semifinals against Pitman — a team it beat, 4-2, during the season. It’s a solid rebound from an eight-win season a year ago for New Egypt.
“People are still in kind of a shock. … A lot of people did not expect this, but these players worked hard and were determined,” first-year head coach Matt Carroll said.
Despite the week-long layoff for New Egypt’s softball team before the sectional championship game, coach Kevin English said it does not hurt the momentum the team has built from the experience of many players who reached the sectional championship in the past.
“We don’t need any motivation no matter who we play,” said English, who is shooting for his fifth trip to the state championships. “Our fielding has come around, and we have confidence there.”
That’s important for a team that shifted many returning players around and even changed their roles at the plate, including Chloe Lewis in a sectional quarterfinals victory, 1-0, over Keansburg High School May 27. Lewis was called upon to advance runners Gabby Medina, who led off the sixth inning with a single, and Weber, who walked in a long at-bat, with one of her few bunts this season. She laid down a textbook bunt between the pitcher and first baseman that was played on to first in time and did the job. It ran against the idea that players who are big hitters like Lewis, who is hitting .420, often are not good bunters but focus on getting the big hits. Sam Getz then brought Medina home with a sacrifice fly to center for the lone run of the game.
Weber made it stand up with a one-hitter. She had 13 strikeouts and one walk.
“It’s the tiny things that make the biggest differences,” English said of the bunt by Lewis. “We practice [bunting] every day, and she laid it down perfectly. The only play they had was to first base, and then Sam came through for the winning run.”
Staying mentally sharp is vital from here and a lack of it at times figured in the Warriors going 4-4 in the BCSL Freedom Division during the season.
“You look at that [division] record and it’s misleading,” English said. “We lost in the division, games by 2-1 and 3-2 scores in 10 innings, 1-0 in eight innings and lost a 5-4 game in the seventh inning. That’s our four losses. It was mental mistakes, some caused by circumstances like the prom going on. But in the state tournament, there is no room for error, and everybody knows that. We preach every day about that, and they’ll be able to execute.
“We know what we have to do, and our hitting has been there, except for the last couple of games. We had to manufacture runs, but we’re not a small ball team, and parts of the lineup were called upon to do that and have done it.”
Weber anchors a well-balanced offense with a team-best 20 RBIs off a .351 batting average. Her 14-4 record includes a 1.56 ERA with 207 strikeouts and 30 walks in 128.2 innings pitched. Meagan Smith is hitting a team-best .481 with 18 RBIs, and Rebecca Lombardo bats .386 with 19 RBIs. Medina bats .373, and Getz and Medina each have driven in 17 runs.
The Warriors’ baseball team has exceeded expectations. Chris Tereszczyn was the starter against Pittman May 31, with Nate Peacock ready for relief work. New Egypt is looking for its third trip to the sectional finals, with the others coming two years ago when it lost to Pittman and 10 years ago in a loss during which Carroll’s dad, Rich, was the head coach.
“It’s very exciting. I’m happy we’re here,” said Mickey Horner, a hot-hitting first baseman batting .439 with 16 RBIs who made the All-BCSL Freedom team with Tereszczyn, Peacock, pitcher Kyle Frimel and second baseman Neal Flogel.
They helped New Egypt finish in second place in the division. Tereszczyn and Peacock also have been selected to the Burlington County Carpenter Cup team.
“Early in the season, we left [more] runners on base,” Horner said. “I feel like our team has come together. We’re executing at the right time. We don’t always hit the ball the whole game, but we do when we need it.”
It showed in the sectional quarterfinals May 26, when seven batters drove in runs and New Egypt rallied back from a 6-4 deficit with seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning for an 11-6 victory over Gloucester City High School. Pitcher Tim Morera, Anthony Burr, Gino Tortoriello and Peacock each drove in two runs, and Burr, Flogel, Peacock and Liam Snell each hammered two hits.
Tereszczyn earned the win, scattering 11 hits over the distance, and drilled a two-run double to deliver the go-ahead run in the last inning, as New Egypt pulled out a 4-2 opening-round victory over Glassboro High School. He comes into this week 5-2 with a 3.16 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 14 walks in 38.2 innings. He’s also batting .442 with 18 RBIs. Batterymate Tortoriello has a team-best 19 RBIs in a well-balanced attack. Peacock is hitting an even .500 with 17 RBIs.
Tortoriello drove in the go-ahead run in the last inning the first time New Egypt played Pitman.
“We’re the lowest seed left by far” Carroll said of ninth-seeded New Egypt. “The others are the two, three and four seeds. And we beat the 16th-seed (Gloucester), who knocked off the No. 1-seed (Haddon Heights High School). It’s getting it together. We’ve put together a couple of innings here and there.”
Now the Warriors have to string together a full seven innings.
“It’s an exciting time for the Warriors,” Carroll said.
The coach is confident his team can continue to share in the excitement of the softball team, the boys lacrosse team that won a share of the BCSL Freedom title in a 12-4 season and the girls and boys outdoor track and field teams in the state sectional meet May 27-28 that was highlighted by the three first-place finishes by Natalie Suess and Austin Horner’s qualifying in four events for the Group I championships.
Suess won the high jump at 5-2, the long jump at 6-0 and the triple jump at 37-7½. Seleste Leal was third in the 200 meters in 27.12 and fifth in the 110 hurdles in 13.22. Lauren Suess was fifth in the 400 hurdles in 1:11.40, while in the relays, New Egypt advanced its 4×800 team that was third in 11:05.10 and the 4×400 team that was fifth in 4:18.40.
The top six finishers automatically advance to the group meet.
For the boys, Horner finished second in the triple jump at 43 feet, fourth in the long jump at 20-7 and fifth in the high jump at 6-0 and the 110 hurdles in 16.32. Senior Milt Mann won the pole vault at 11-0, and his sophomore brother, Clayton, was fourth at 10-0. Sam O’Neill was third in the 800 in 2:00.30, while Ryan Devine threw a fifth-place mark of 136-1 in the javelin. James Sonday was sixth in 136-0. The 4×800 team was sixth in 8:55.00.