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Redbirds ready to pursue success on softball diamond in 2022

Allentown High School starting pitcher Carley Noble winds and delivers a pitch to the plate during a game played last season. Allentown hosts Trenton Central in its season opener on April 1.

ALLENTOWN – In 2021, the members of the Allentown High School softball team got a firsthand look at what it takes to make a run at a championship during a 15-7 campaign.

The Redbirds were six outs away from playing for the Central Jersey Group III state sectional tournament championship when they led Colts Neck High School, 1-0, going into the bottom of the sixth inning during a state sectional tournament semifinal game.

But the Cougars rallied to beat the Redbirds and ultimately went on to win the state sectional tournament crown and the NJSIAA Group III state championship.

Pushing the team that eventually won a state champions to the brink of elimination and being one game away from playing for a state sectional tournament title showed the Redbirds what type of success they were capable of if they put everything together.

With their lineup fully intact coming into the 2022 campaign, the Redbirds are hungry for bigger things and believe they have what it takes to win a state sectional tournament title.

“The girls want to go a lot farther,” Coach Richard Dawson said. “Making it to the sectional semifinals last year really made them a lot hungrier to go farther this year and win a championship.”

The big bat of senior first baseman Kaylee Mushinski is back in the middle of the lineup to boost the Redbirds. As a junior, Mushinski delivered a team-high 32 hits with two home runs and 20 RBI.

Senior Emily Zuppa returns after a junior campaign which saw her drive in 20 runs for the Redbirds. Zuppa had 29 hits, 21 runs scored and led the team with 21 doubles in 2021.

Mushinski and Zuppa will lead a strong infield that will also feature sophomore Stella Logan and senior Emily Lohkamp

Logan is expected to play shortstop in 2022 after primarily playing third base in 2021. As a freshman, Logan delivered 30 hits and 14 RBI, and led the team with 23 runs scored.

“I expect her to take things to the next level,” Dawson said about Logan. “I expect her to have tougher at bats.”

Dawson also expects to see more offensive production from sophomore Kyleigh Mihalik.

In the outfield, senior Olivia Sacco leads the charge for the Redbirds. Sacco collected 20 hits as a junior and led the team with 11 stolen bases in 2021.

Sophomore Sofia Belardino is also slated to return to the outfield.

Dawson believes the Redbirds have strength in the pitching circle with Skyler LaFisca and Carley Noble returning.

The two seniors are expected to pick up where they left off a year ago and provide the Redbirds with a solid one-two punch that can go toe to toe with any team in the Colonial Valley Conference and in Central Jersey Group III competition.

Catching the two aces will be sophomore Holly Muni.

Dawson expects freshmen Kayla Foy, Taylor Lalla and Maddie Kish to provide a spark for the Redbirds in their first campaign.

The coach knows how hungry his players are to win a championship, but he has made sure to relay the message of taking things one game at a time during the preseason.

“We are playing it one game at a time,” Dawson said. “Before you know it, you will be having a good season and be right where you want to be.”

The Redbirds have looked strong in their scrimmages with wins against Manalapan and Lawrenceville Prep.

On Opening Day, April 1, the Redbirds will host Trenton Central.

“I’m looking for the girls to be completely on the same page,” Dawson said. “Defense. Base running. Understanding playing small ball or trying to out-slug the opponent based on the team we are playing.”

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