Redbirds’ softball team hopes South Carolina trip pays off

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By Wayne Witkowski

Little did Allentown High School softball coach Kim Maurer and her players realize when they planned a mid-March trip to the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, how fortuitous it was amid the onslaught of winter weather after a brief stretch of mild temperatures in the opening week of preseason.

“We’ve been inside the whole time,” Maurer said of the preseason. “This [trip] was the first time we got out. We’re hitting the ball well and have to work on our defensive end.”

The Redbirds hope to capitalize on a successful junket in which they won five of six games against teams from Pennsylvania and Tennessee as they get a jump on many other teams early in the season and renew their bid for a Colonial Valley Conference Valley Division championship. The Redbirds’ only loss on the trip came to a team from Whitehall, Pennsylvania.

The trip was the first in many years for Allentown, which had traveled in the preseason years ago.

Last year’s team went through a plunge over the second half of the season after a great start. Allentown finished 14-10 with losses in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals to Robbinsville High School and the opening round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group III tournament opening round, 5-3, to Moorestown High School.

A mingling of young starters with trusty veterans gives the Redbirds some new vitality as they look to replace graduated pitcher Kayla Peterson, top hitter Alyssa Arias, catcher Brianna McGowan and shortstop Carly Bailey.

They’ll have to adjust quickly with a loaded schedule this week that included games at Hightstown High School April 3, at home against Lawrence High School April 4 and at Trenton Central High School the following day before playing Jackson Liberty High School at 1 p.m. April 8 in a Middletown High School North invitational tournament.

Last season, Jackson Liberty won the Ocean County Tournament for the first time.

Heather Devine, a junior who pitched a little last year, and sophomore Sara Weinstein are the leading pitchers for this season. Devine throws a screwball and a curve.

Madison Storey, a junior who played first base last season, moves over to catcher. Sophomore Grace Dawson, who saw spot action at first base last season, is the regular starter there now.

Senior Shae Dominici is in the starting lineup for her third straight season, playing at second base. Sophomore Alyssa Notarinni, who has given an early commitment to Rider University, is the shortstop. Junior Dara Ziobro starts at third base.
Sarina Campanella, a senior center fielder, is the only established outfielder.

Sophomore Lauren Coiante in left field and senior Daniann DelBagno in right field are filling the vacated outfield spots and have played well there but need to pick up their hitting, Maurer said.

Juniors Amanda Ariano, younger sister of graduated player Alyssa, is practicing hard for an opportunity at catcher, and Katie White gives depth in the outfield.