NA’s Zaros delivering in the clutch

The high school softball season is winding down to the last precious few games. It means that Allie Zaros’ career as a high school softball player is drawing to a close.

“It’s scary that I will be graduating high school in a month,” said Zaros, the North Arlington High School senior. “It’s gone by so quickly, but I’m ready to go.”

Before Zaros heads off to Ramapo College in the fall to study accounting, she wants to make sure she makes her mark at NA.

And that’s exactly what she’s done this season, improving her batting average by almost 200 points over last year, going from around .300 last year to an astounding .488 this season. She’s been the Vikings’ cleanup hitter all season.

She takes playing softball very seriously,” said North Arlington head softball coach Carol Dorazio. “She takes batting lessons all year round.”
Zaros takes lessons from famed softball coaching instructor Ish Falcone, the head coach at Clifton High School and former head coach at Rutherford.

“I started taking batting lessons in eighth grade,” Zaros said. “It’s helped a lot.”

There was a time when Zaros didn’t know whether she wanted to be a dancer or a softball player. Zaros took dance lessons and even competed in hip hop dance and lyrical dance.

“But I thought I was a better softball player,” Zaros said about foregoing any further dance activity. “I think I was pretty good in dance, but I stopped because of softball. I just liked softball better.”

At one time, Zaros played for three different softball teams in North Arlington Recreation and travel ball. That’s how much she loved playing.

But by the time Zaros got to high school, she was a little leery.

“At first, I was a little afraid of being able to handle my school work and softball,” Zaros said. “But I stayed with it and it worked out fine. Softball is my favorite thing, my favorite sport.”

More like hitting the softball. That’s where Zaros really excels.

Last week, Zaros had three hits, including a double and a home run, and three RBI against Paterson Charter and added two hits, including a double, and three RBI in a win against Wallington. She also scored a run in the Vikings’ huge upset 6-3 win over Technology of Newark in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs last Thursday, advancing to face Brearley Regional in the second round. The Vikings were the 15th seed and Technology (18-6) owners of the second seed in the bracket.

For her efforts, Zaros has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

For the season, Zaros owns that gaudy .488 batting average with six doubles, two triples, one homer and 14 RBI. She has a .805 slugging percentage, a .571 on-base percentage and a .968 fielding percentage from right field. Zaros has even thrown out a handful of runners from right field at first base on would-be singles.

“She’s always improving,” Dorazio said. “She’s always looking to get better. She’s very serious about softball. She knew what she wanted to do this year and she’s doing it. We had high expectations of her, but she also had very high expectations of herself.”

But instead of those hopes and expectations putting pressure on Zaros, she seems to be thriving on it.

“She’s very comfortable,” Dorazio said. “She knew exactly what we needed from her.”

After concentrating on her swing and taking the hitting lessons with Falcone, Zaros just settled in and had a nice senior year.

“I always had the same problem,” Zaros said. “I had an uppercut of a swing. I hated when I would hit the ball and I’d pop it up. Now, I think I see the ball better and I concentrate on my swing. My swing has gotten faster.”

“Allie is more of a contact hitter,” Dorazio said. “She’s very consistent in putting the ball in play. Even when she makes an out, she’s moving runners over. She’s a team player. She’s always thinking of the team first and not thinking about stats.
Zaros said that she’s been a
bit shocked with her explosion.

“I am a little surprised that I’ve done this,” Zaros said. “I didn’t think I could be able to hit this well. I didn’t realize how good I was doing, because I didn’t expect it to happen.”
But Dorazio is not shocked.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Dorazio said. “If she wanted something, she did it. If there was something wrong, she worked hard to correct it. She just understood what she had to do.”
Dorazio said that Zaros will be sorely missed.

“We’re losing six seniors, but Allie will be missed for helping to turn the up and coming players around,” Dorazio said. “I’d definitely say she’s fun loving. Everyone on the team loves her. She’s a little on the quiet side, but she has good rapport with her teammates and coaches. She has a good sense of humor and she loves helping the younger kids.”

Dorazio also applauds Zaros’ defense _ and the rest of the Vikings’ outfield.

“In all my years, we’ve never had an outfield like this,” Dorazio said. “Allie is throwing runners out at first base on a regular basis. She gets the ball and comes up throwing. She gets the ball to first base quickly and I encourage her to try.”

Dorazio believes that Zaros has the ability to play at Ramapo.

“She can do it,” Dorazio said.

Those words are finally hitting home with Zaros.

“I’m going to try to play at Ramapo,” Zaros said. “I’ve e-mailed the coach (Bridgette Quimpo) and I’m ready to try. I have to thank all my coaches who I played for over the years. I never thought this all could happen.”

Zaros has certainly left her mark _ and has a chance to leave a few more marks on some softballs before she leaves North Arlington.

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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.”