It wasn’t always a group of stud race horse names attached to some of the better softball players in Essex County, and IHA. And the popcorn wasn’t always popping.
Coaches have often called outstanding players ‘studs’, but the first one, in these annals, anyway, to get a ‘name’ was Livingston High’s Jessica Peslak, back in 2010, when she was a freshman. She was called Secretariat.
Peslak would enjoy a phenomenal high school career, including two straight years (2012 and 2013) as an All-State pitcher for the Lancers. She led Livingston to a pair of Essex County championships, as well as two Super Essex Conference titles and a pair of state sectional crowns.
Livingston was the dominant team in Essex County in 2012 and 2013, losing one game to an Essex opponent during that era, while winning 37. She was so good at times that people would rave at a game she actually lost.
In 2011, Peslak pitched a tremendous game against Nutley in the ECT semifinals, striking out 14 against a great hitting Raiders team, only to lose on a two-out hit, in the bottom of the seventh. She often referred to that game as one of her favorites.
Fast forward a few years, and Peslak will be heading into her senior year at Hofstra University. She’s well on her way to a Bachelor’s Degree and is already contemplating Law School.
And, yes, she’s still pitching, and doing it quite well. Peslak was Hofstra’s number one pitcher this season, finishing 17-10, in 31 games. Secretariat pitched 168 2/3 innings, 12 complete games and registered 88 strikeouts against an NCAA Division 1 schedule that featured the likes of Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast, Marshall, Florida State, St. John’s, UConn, St. John’s, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Iona, University of Delaware, Drexel and James Madison University.
“It was a good season for me,” said Peslak, who had missed her freshman and sophomore years, for the most part, due to a series of injuries. “I was finally healthy, and got a great opportunity to pitch regularly. I can’t wait for next season, but in the same instance, it’s the last time I’ll be playing at this level. I’ll be a senior already. I can’t believe how fast it’s gone by.”
Peslak often speaks of the great rivalry shared between Livingston and Mount St. Dominic while she was in high school. “I think we brought out the best in each other,” she said. “They were a great team, and obviously, still are.”
And while Peslak will be training hard in the off-season for that final ‘stretch run’ as a softball player, she’s also thinking about preparing for the LSAT’s, the testing that goes a long way in determining admission to Law School. She’s done exceedingly well in college, thus far, with a high GPA through three years.
“It’s about the next phase of my life, for sure,” she said. “I’m interested in real estate law and civil cases. My brother (Eddie) passed the Bar in both New Jersey and New York. I’ll probably stay more in New Jersey, but who knows, for sure? That could change. It’s an exciting time.”
The determination to complete her softball career is high on the priority list.
“No doubt about it,” she said. “I finally got the chance to play this year and loved it. I learned a lot. Now, I want to get better for next season and help my team win.”
The daughter of Jean and Ed Peslak, Jess has stayed close to her Livingston roots. Many of her former high school teammates are among her close friends today. She’s looking forward to watching the Lancers play in the Essex County Tournament semifinals on Friday, and perhaps on Saturday, in the championship game, at Ivy Hill Park.
“I’ve been following the best I can,” said Peslak. “I saw that (Livingston head coach Jason) Daily recently won his 300th game, and I sent him a few texts. It should be an interesting tournament. Montclair had a big upset, and I see that West Essex is really good.”
Peslak is also busy with a new family member. She recently adopted a dog, named ‘Winnie’.
“The dog is so much fun,” said Peslak. “Keeps me busy, for sure, but it’s great.”
It’s been quite the run for Jessica Peslak. And the best is yet to come for the kid that prompted Getting The Popcorn Ready, AKA, Secretariat.