Most coaches will tell you that the good teams peak at the end of its respective season.
With that said, Livingston’s run to a state sectional softball championship and a very good performance in the Group 4 semifinal against a top-rated team in Watchung Hills, speaks volumes of a team that worked through adversity, thanks to superb coaching and the tenacity of the senior class.
Livingston coach Jason Daily is known as a technical coach, (as well as the Mayor of ShangriLa) using his team’s talents to the max. He’s been the master of utilizing small ball, power pitching, power hitting and superb defense, where it best applied.
When Daily had a Secretariat-type pitcher, Jess Peslak, it was a matter of watching her dominate in the circle, and have a steady defense behind her.
When he had a Seattle Slew–type leadoff batter in Kylie McLaughlin, a three-time, first-team, All-State player, he could use small ball, because of Kylie’s speed, but then go to long ball, because she wasn’t your typical slap hitter, rather could hit long homers.
And with stud players like Sammi Rothenberger, Marina Lombardi and Rachel Wasilak, good fielding was combined with clutch hitting.
Livingston would win two county titles, a pair of conference championships and multiple state sectional titles, from 2012-2013. Along the way, the Lancers would put together a 40-1 record, in conference play, from 2012 through the middle of the ’14 season.
Graduation would take its toll, but Livingston continued to reload. And in 2016, the Lancers, as a seventh seed, won the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 championship for the third time in five years. And in the Group 4 semifinal on June 7, it played a tremendous game, before losing, 2-1, when Watchung Hills scored a run in the top of the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie, at Montclair State University.
And so, the books are closed on a 17-12 season at Livingston, but the memories should never fade.
“Great group of kids,” said an emotional Daily, afterward. “They really had a good run at this. And they had a lot of fun competing, which is something I’ll always remember.”
And the names are those of kids who played their hearts out, like pitcher Sydney McCormack (Syd The Kid), who had a tremendous state tournament, infielders Allie Royce, Allie Beinhacker, Blake Saperstein and Nina Petrillo, catcher Emma Cooney, pitchers Jess Gorman and Kaitlyn Kelly and outfielders Jaclyn Williamson, Ashley Reuter, Julia Viggiano and Jill Gibbon and hitters Kate Sheehan and Danelle Rosenblum.
Livingston won four straight to claim the sectional crown, with everyone on the roster contributing one way, or the other. The Lancers, who were a .500 team for most of the season, certainly saved it best for the stretch drive.