Fallyn Stoeckel thought her high school softball career at Nutley was over when the Raiders suffered a heart-breaking 13-inning loss at Roxbury in the Group 3 semifinals. But just a day or two later, she received news she was one of just 36 players selected to play in the prestigious NJ Pride Super 36 All-Star Game and represent Nutley one last time.
Last Monday, her high school teammates in the stands to support her and the state’s top stars on the field, it was Stoeckel, who shined the brightest. Stoeckel pitched three hitless innings of relief and had a RBI double to earn MVP honors for the North team, which rallied for a 4-3 victory at Ivy Hill Park in Newark.
“I was just really excited to find out that I was selected,” said Stoeckel, adding she was surprised when she was named MVP. “I didn’t expect anything so when I got the email, I was really excited. It was really fun because I got to play with a lot of people that I played with in the summer or used to play with so that was really fun.”
Stoeckel admitted it felt a little weird starting a game on the bench and that there were some nerves playing in the game, but she quickly felt at ease when her turn to pitch came in the sixth inning. One thing that did help the transition was a familiar face behind the plate in Whippany Park’s Katie Brunner. Both Stoeckel and Brunner play together during the summer with NJ Fight and will continue to be teammates next year as they’ve signed to play at Rider University.
“I was good right from the start, especially because my catcher was (Katie),” Stoeckel said. “She’s been catching me for a while so it all felt fine. I was really excited for both of us to play and have the opportunity. She’s been catching me for a little over a year, but it clicked ever since I met her. I’m really excited for the next four years with her.”
In the bottom of the seventh, with the North trailing 3-1, Stoeckel’s RBI double drove in the first of three runs in the inning, giving her team a lead it never relinquished.
After being named MVP, Stoeckel was greeted by several of her Nutley teammates who made the drive to Seton Hall University to support her.
“That meant a lot to me. I didn’t know all of them were coming,” Stoeckel said. “I knew a few were, but to see all of them there when I went up for my first at-bat felt really comforting. It was really exciting. It just shows how close we all are and just how we bonded. Especially this year after winning a sectional. We all just support each other with everything.”
This spring, Nutley broke through and won its first sectional title since 2015 when it defeated West Morris, 10-5, in the championship game. It marked the exclamation point of an incredible three-season run for Stoeckel and fellow seniors Lia DeMaio and Sydney Hess, where the Raiders won 60 games, made three sectional finals and two Essex County Tournament finals despite losing their sophomore year to Covid-19.
Stoeckel, in particular, had an All-State caliber season that won’t soon be forgotten. In the circle, she struck out an eye-popping 307 batters — believed to be the most by a Nutley pitcher in more than 25 years — with 11 shutouts and a sparkling 1.12 ERA. At the plate, Stoeckel hit .384 (28-for-73) with 18 walks, 16 RBI, 15 runs and 12 doubles.
In her three years at Nutley, Stoeckel finished with 599 career strikeouts and 87 hits.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)