The names have changed, but the tradition continues.
Gone are the studs of recent lore, such as Secretariat (Jess Peslak), Seattle Slew (Kylie McLaughlin), Riva Ridge (Sammi Rothenberger) and Silver Charm (Marina Lombardi), not to mention our FMTC Player of the Year in 2013, Rachel Wasilak, who is doing a great job on the collegiate level now, at William Paterson University.
But a few constants remain, beginning with Livingston’s head softball coach, Jason Daily, and continuing with a program which stresses good defense, consistent pitching and timely hitting.
Four games into the pre-season, Daily has gotten a decent look at what his team is capable of. And while Daily, always a tough grader, isn’t really satisfied, what coach is pleased, in mid March?
Livingston faced North Hunterdon on March 16 and won. It opened its pre-season on March 12, with a quad scrimmage at Paramus, which included Mahwah and Lenape Valley. On March 17, it played Hanover Park and dropped a close game in the final inning.
“I don’t worry too much about scores and that kind of stuff, in scrimmages,” said Daily, who had his team working cutoffs and throws from the outfield, to the plate, minutes after the Hanover Park game was over.
“As coaches, we make a lot of adjustments. I want the kids to be competitive. But we also have to fix the mental errors, and that comes with good at-bats, against tough opponents, as well as playing the field, learning the wind patterns and, in essence, battling through adversity. It’s what has made us a good program for a while now.”
Livingston’s record speaks for itself. From 2012-2015, the Lancers were 29-1, 25-4, 21-6 and 18-11. The team won a pair of Essex County and state sectional titles during that stretch, as well as a two Super Essex Conference titles, during which time Livingston lost one conference game. It has been in the Essex County semifinals, or better, six times in the last seven years.
Daily’s record at Livingston, since taking the helm in 2001, is 289-106. But with all those wins, he’s still more consumed with the losses.
“You never forget those,” said Daily. “It’s what makes you a better coach, in the long run.”
The Lancers’ pitching should be paced this season by senior righty Sydney McCormack, or Syd The Kid in the horse racing analogy. Also expected to pitch this season are sophomore Jess Gorman and junior Kaitlyn Kelly, who can also play in the infield and outfield.
Sophomore Emma Cooney should be the starting catcher, replacing Lombardi, who was phenomenal during her four years at LHS.
A veteran, senior, infield features Allie Royce at first, Allie Beinhacker at second, shortstop Blake Saperstein and third baseman Nina Petrillo.
In the outfield, Jaclyn Williamson, a junior should play left, Ashley Reuter, a sophomore, is the centerfielder and Julia Viggiano, a senior, could start in right. Jill Gibbon, a sophomore is also expected to see time in the outfield.
Danielle Rosenblum, a sophomore and Kate Sheehan, a junior, are candidates to be the team’s designated player.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Daily. “We have to build depth and continue working hard in practices, and scrimmages. We’re not hitting very well, either, but again, that should come with more work at the plate in the scrimmages.”
The weather has been good, for the most part, which means the team has been outside steadily since March 4. The usual week at the indoor facility at Diamond Nation this year was canceled because of facility upgrades.
“The weather has helped,” said Daily. “At Diamond Nation, we would have gotten more scrimmages in. But that’s the way it is.”
The Lancers open its season on April 1, against two-time defending county and conference champion, Mount St. Dominic.
“Why not?” said Daily with a laugh. “We play them twice a year. Let’s jump in and see where we’re at. The Mount is obviously a tremendous program, and if we want to get better, those are the kind of teams we’ll need to play.
“And looking at our league, West Essex is very good and Cedar Grove is coming off a state championship. Every conference game is a grind, for sure.”
But Daily has never backed away from a challenge, and his team is sure to follow that lead.
Get your popcorn ready.