By Jimmy Allinder
When Julie Siecinski walked through the door of John P. Stevens High School as a freshman, head softball coach Krystle Petty immediately recognized she was looking at a special athlete.
“I hadn’t seen her play, but Julie carried herself with such an air of confidence, but not overly so,” Petty said. “Then I watched her on the field, and I saw other things that make her such a special person. Julie has talent, is a fiery competitor and [has] great determination to win. But she is humble enough to keep an open mind about making changes to her game, and that’s what makes her so coachable.”
It is those attributes that have enabled the rising senior to become a top college prospect. In the classroom, Siecinski has achieved a 4.0 grade-point average and is interested in a number of schools, including Dickinson College, Sarah Lawrence College, Widener University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Ithaca College. Wherever she matriculates, Siecinski plans to major in history or history education.
Looking at statistics throughout her softball career at J.P. Stevens, it appears Siecinski suffered a subpar year last spring when her batting average dipped to .284 following freshman and sophomore seasons when she hit .375 and .351, respectively.
Siecinski says statistics don’t always tell the whole story.
“My average didn’t mean I hit the ball less often,” she said. “And frankly, in softball, you can hit the ball hard right at somebody and she makes a great play. We’re talking about 24 games, which is a small sample and can impact the numbers if it happens enough times.”
A more accurate gauge was the 25 runs batted in — her highest number in three varsity seasons. Siecinski also scored 16 runs, which was another high water mark.
Her presence at the plate and in the field (second base) is a testament to her cerebral approach.
“When I’m at bat, I ask myself, ‘What does my team need from me right now?’ ” she said. “If I need to get down a bunt, I concentrate on making contact with the ball. If we need a hit, I tell myself, ‘I dare this pitcher to throw me a strike because I’m going to drive it as far as I can.’
“When I’m at my position, I’m always hoping the ball is hit to me because I am going to make the play.”
Petty is excited about what Siecinski will bring to the Hawks next spring.
“Julie has literally played in every scrimmage and game since joining the team,” Petty said. “She loves softball, and you see it in everything she does. Julie’s selfless, hard-working and a natural leader. Her teammates know they can look to her for advice on how to tweak a mechanic or just some comic relief. Those attributes and many others make me confident her future is bright whatever she decides to do.”
Siecinski began playing baseball in North Edison when she was 4 years old and added softball to her sports résumé when she turned 7.
“Softball has always been my main sport, but I did play a few others,” she said. “I’m on the basketball team and play in the [Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC)] Summer League (the Hawks won the title), but that sport is designed to keep me in good physical condition. I played soccer in middle school but stopped when I entered high school. I still volunteer as an assistant soccer coach during the middle school’s season under my former coach, Marc Gesualdo, who has had a major part in helping shape me into the competitor I am today.”
Siecinski also finds time to play third base for her travel softball team, the Top Gun 18U Gold.
Backed by her parents, Joe and Trish, and older brother, Joey, Siecinski has strong support. She also credits her softball teammates, including Kayla Smith, Gabby Young, Rebecca DiSerio and Kelsy Shalonis — friends she has played with since she was 8 — for helping her realize her potential.
“Each [girl] has been a major part of my life, and they have always pushed me to do my best,” Siecinski said. “I couldn’t ask for a better support system.”
As for her potential, Siecinski can only point to her senior year and a solemn promise she will work as hard as she can and help continue the tradition of excellence that is J.P. Stevens softball.
After all, that’s what confidence can do.