Division-winning South River softball team surpasses expectations


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By Jimmy Allinder

This is about a softball team that was not expected to achieve what it has.

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South River High School coach Deb Devivo felt her team would fare well as members of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Gold Division this spring but hedged on predicting the Rams would win the title.

Not only has South River locked up the division crown, but it also didn’t lose a game (13-0) — a marked improvement over last year’s 14-10 record. Overall, the eighth-seeded Rams were 19-2 before a first-round game with ninth-seeded Bishop George Ahr High School May 15 in the GMC Tournament.

“I didn’t expect us to be as successful as we have been this season,” Devivo said. “Our division performance is the result of a couple of things. The competition has not been what I thought it would be, but also several players have stepped up.”

Chief among them is pitcher Mackenzie Garrick, who has taken the ram by the horns. The senior has been in the circle for all but five innings and involved in every decision. Garrick has also been far and away the leading hitter with statistics that out-distance her teammates by a wide margin: .672 batting average, 45 hits, 15 stolen bases and 39 runs batted in.

Not that the other starters haven’t been productive. Senior second baseman Samantha Buckenberger is much improved, Devivo said, and her .310 average attests to that.

Sophomore shortstop Hannah Kurtz is hitting .390, sophomore third baseman Haley Joynes is batting .408 and freshman Erin Kowalski has made a splashing debut with a .480 average and is second in hits with 28. Kowalski, the heir apparent to Garrick on the mound, has seen action in a few contests.

This is a season to remember for South River, but just as impressive is the Rams are getting the job done with five freshmen and five sophomores in the lineup. Before the game against Bishop Ahr — admittedly a major step up in competition — Devivo said the team was looking forward to the tournaments.

“The motto is as always, ‘Take one game at a time,’ ” she said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

The cutoff for qualifying for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey, Group I tournament qualification was May 12, and the Rams were ranked third with 315 points behind Henry Hudson Regional High School (337) and New Egypt High School (317). Pairings will be announced shortly with sites being at the higher-seeded teams.

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