By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The 2014 high school softball season was a dream campaign for the Kardinals of Kearny High School, who rolled off 10 straight wins at one point last season en route to a 21-5 record and the school’s first-ever Hudson County Tournament championship.
As the 2015 season began last week, Kearny head coach Jimmy Pickel believes that the Kardinals can once again contend for top honors in Hudson County.
“With the pitching we have and the amount of players we have back and if we stay together, I think it’s possible to have another run at it,” Pickel said. “We have to click at the right time, like we did last year. That’s all it takes.”
The Kardinals are fortunate to have junior Caralynne Rivera back for another season. Rivera is one of the best players in the county, evidenced by her pitching and hitting performance in the county title win over Bayonne, hitting a homer that sealed the victory.
“I never have to worry about the pitching with Caralynne there,” Pickel said. “It always helps having a No. 1 pitcher like her. She plays softball all year round. She plays travel ball and goes for pitching and hitting lessons. She throws a number of pitches for strikes and has really improved her changeup. I would say she’s improved as a pitcher. She’s also now our leadoff hitter, so she’s the one who gets us going.”
When Rivera needs a day off from pitching, Pickel can go to sophomore left-hander Giovanna Scrimo, who did a fine job on the mound during the Kards’ recent excursion to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Scrimo’s older sister, Arianna, is the team’s returning starter at catcher.
“It helps immensely having your top pitcher and catcher back,” Pickel said. “They’re the keys to the team and they work well together. They’re always talking together about different hitters and different pitches to throw. They get along very well.”
Obviously, the elder Scrimo gets along with the team’s No. 2 pitcher as well. After all, she has to. It’s all in the family.
Senior Amanda DeSousa is the Kardinals’ starter at first base. DeSousa started at first on the county championship team as well.
“She’s a very solid fielder,” Pickel said. “She’s also our cleanup hitter. She’s a leader by example being a senior.”
The second base duties are being shared by juniors Caitlyn Crespo and Ryelle Feda and sophomore Jane Amadeo, who can also play the outfield and pitch.
“We’ve had her all over the place so far,” Pickel said of Amadeo. “She’s very active on the field.”
The shortstop is returning senior Daniella Echevestre, who was the starter at short last year.
“She’s really improved since last year,” Pickel said. “She’s already made some outstanding plays in the field.”
Junior Laura Vilar is the third baseman.
“She’s probably our most reliable infielder,” Vilar said. “She’s also our No. 2 hitter and is batting well over .500 right now.”
Junior Brianna Serrano is the starter in left field.
“She has never played for us before, but she’s done a great job so far,” Pickel said. “She’s come a long way.”
Serrano had a two-run triple in a win last week against defending state sectional champion Hoboken.
Junior Melissa McAndrew is the centerfielder.
“She’s done a very nice job out there so far,” Pickel said. “She’s also really stepped up at the plate. She’s taken the role of being the centerfielder and has run with it.”
Right field is being shared by a pair of juniors in Jillian Cullen and Erika Greenlee. Cullen was a first baseman who has been converted into an outfielder this season.
“She has done an outstanding job in learning the position,” Pickel said.
Junior Olivia Papa is the team’s jack-of-all-trades. Papa can play second base or the outfield.
The Kardinals have won two of their first three games and have games scheduled against Hudson Catholic and Ferris this week.
On Saturday morning, the Kardinals will play host to local rival North Arlington at 11 a.m. and the two teams will participate in the Strikeouts for Cancer fundraiser. The game will be played at the Gunnell Oval, the Kards’ home field.
There will be raffles and concessions at the game, as well as a T-shirt sale. All of the proceeds of the day will go to a local cancer-related charity that has yet to be determined.
“Every little bit helps,” Pickel said of the fundraiser, which should be a good event.
So the Kardinals are hopeful that it can be another exciting softball season.
“We have to expect that,” Pickel said.
Whether it means another county championship remains to be seen, but with Rivera leading the way, the pieces are certainly in place.