Kearny softball: Veteran group looks to repeat solid season

The Kearny High School softball team had a great 2015 campaign, posting a 17-7 record, only to suffer postseason losses to North Bergen in the Hudson County Tournament playoffs and to Hackensack in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV playoffs.

The Kardinals return seven starters from last year’s squad, including All-Hudson County hurler Caralynne Rivera, one of the best pitchers in Kearny softball history.

“I think the losses in the playoffs stung,” veteran Kearny head softball coach Jimmy Pickel said. “They stuck around with the team for a while. It was a burning sensation that got the best of us. I think not having Caralynne at 100 percent hurt us. A lot of our players have dedicated themselves to having a good season this year.”

Pickel said that many of his players worked hard in the offseason at the Lyndhurst speed school facility FASST.

“They put in the time with their workouts,” Pickel said. “They all attended the workouts. I think if we had to play games on the very first day of practice, we would have been successful. That’s how ready I believe they were from the very first day. No one would believe it.”

Pickel said that having a veteran team makes his job easier.

“It does make things a lot more relaxing,” Pickel said. “They made the preparations, what they need to do. It’s helped a great deal.”

Having Rivera back for her final season is another reason for optimism.

“She’s definitely one of the best pitchers,” Pickel said of Rivera. “She’s been healthy so far this season and looks very good so far.”

If Rivera needs help on the mound, she can get it from junior Jane Amadeo, who filled in admirably last year when Rivera was out of action.

The catcher is sophomore newcomer Tatianna Fermaint, who bounced from the freshman to the junior varsity team last year.

“She came up to the varsity at the end of the year,” Pickel said. “I have a lot of faith in her. She’s done a great job behind the plate defensively as well as hitting.”

Amadeo is also seeing time at first base, along with junior Giovanna Scrimo.

“Both are learning the position, but they’re coming along well,” Pickel said.

Senior Caitlyn Crespo is the returning starter at second base.

“Our infield play is probably our strongest point,” Pickel said.

Junior Sydney Pace, who didn’t play last season due to injury, has returned healthy and will play shortstop. Pace is a sensational athlete and will be a major force this season.

“She’s a very good softball player,” Pickel said of Pace. “It’s probably her best sport, but I’m biased.”

Pace is also a highly regarded soccer player and basketball player. She will make a major impact with the Kardinals on the diamond.
Laura Vilar, the standout goalkeeper during the soccer season, is the third baseman. Vilar will try to keep as many groundballs in front of her during the softball season like she kept soccer balls in front of her in the fall.

“She keeps the team very loose,” Pickel said of Vilar. “She’s also very good at third.”

Senior Melissa McAndrew returns to her starting slot in left field.

The centerfielder is returning starter Ryelle Seda, another standout soccer player. Seda is a very good outfielder who covers a ton of ground.

“She’s also our leadoff hitter,” Pickel said. “She gets on base and she can run.”

Right field is being shared by seniors Erica Greenlee and Brianna Serrano. Both played a considerable amount last season.

Senior Jillian Cullen is battling for playing time in the outfield.

“She’s a good contact hitter,” Pickel said of Cullen.

Others who might get a chance to play include senior second baseman Olivia Papa, senior outfielder Alex Matta, sophomore outfielder Gianna Hoch and sophomore infielder Mackenzie Byrne.

The Kardinals are off to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for a stretch, getting seven scrimmage games there before they open the regular season.

“It’s the third year that we’ve gone to Myrtle Beach before the season starts,” Pickel said. “I think it helps team chemistry. We have a fun time, but we also get great competition. It really brings the entire team together.”

And the Kardinals will be together all spring, winning their fair share of softball games, thanks to the girl with the ball in her hands.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”