The thought of attaching the name of a ‘stud’ race horse to the prowess of a talented New Jersey High School softball player began with this blog upon watching a certain freshman from Livingston High throw that first fast ball in April of 2010.
Jessica Peslak quickly became ‘Secretariat’ some eight years ago, as it was evident rather quickly that this kid was, indeed, a stud. And for the next four years, she did nothing to disappoint her teammates and fans, as Peslak led Livingston to back-to-back Super Essex Conference American Division titles, as well as Essex County and North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 championships.
Any time she’d pitch, I’d let people know to ‘get their popcorn ready’, because Secretariat would be in the circle.
In my opinion, there was no one better in 2012, when Jess led the Jason Daily-coached Livingston Lancers to a 29-1 record with some mind-boggling pitching numbers. She finished 26-1 with a 0.32 ERA while leading Livingston to arguably its best season in the program’s history. Peslak fanned 307 in 175 2/3 innings of work while walking 37. She recorded 19 shutouts, five no-hitters and nine one-hitters. Peslak would also have a stretch of 82 1/3 innings of not allowing a run that season.
Jess went on to be a two-time, first team, All-State and All-Essex County player.
Peslak would have a stellar collegiate career at Hofstra University. And while she’s been a marvelous pitcher, she’s an even better student, graduating with incredible grades in college and now is attending Law School.
The daughter of Jean and Ed Peslak, Jess has had a clear vision of what her future could hold for many years. And now, she’s added a new plateau, that of a coach.
Caldwell University head softball coach Dean Johnson has announced the hiring of Peslak to his staff.
“(C.U. assistant coach) Brittany Pulido (a former Caldwell standout pitcher) had to resign because of a promotion at her full-time job,” said Johnson. “I reached out to high school, and travel ball coaches, asking for names of anyone who would be interested, and that may have a pitching background. Phil Delgado, got back to me and said the Jessica is very interested. I have known Jessica for a long time, I recruited her while she was at Livingston High. We met and I offered her the job.
“I am extremely lucky to have her and Jackie Velardi to be part of the staff. Jessica has hit the ground running and is working with the pitchers and hitters. She is doing a great job and the student-athletes really have taken to her. I could not be more pleased.”
There’s a bit of irony in that Peslak will be coaching home games on the Caldwell campus. As a high school player, some of the greatest games she ever competed in came against arch rival Mount St. Dominic, which shares the campus with C.U.
The articulate Peslak shared Johnson’s enthusiasm about her new position.
“I’m definitely very excited this year to be able to keep the game I love so much in my life,” said Peslak. “It is weird standing on the other side of the field, looking out and watching others play, as a coach instead of a player. But I’m glad I am able to pass on my knowledge and help others grow in their talents as softball players.
“I love that I am still able to be involved with this sport, even after college. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue fulfilling my passion for it with law school, but currently I’m able to find a good balance between the two and I couldn’t be happier. I look forward to this spring season, and working with such a great head coach, in Dean Johnson. He is absolutely amazing, and such a great mentor not only for his players, but also for myself. Game day may not have the same meaning it did when I was a player, but I’m truly excited to start this new chapter from the other side of the field.”
Caldwell University’s softball team has enjoyed phenomenal success. An NCAA, Division II school, it has won multiple CACC championships and in 2004, appeared in the NCAA, D-2 World Series, in Florida. The Caldwell Cougars will open its season on March 9, at the National Training Center, in Clermont, Fla., against Bentley University. Caldwell’s first home game is on March 18, with a doubleheader against Merrimack College.
Last year’s Cougars finished 45-15, including a 25-1 record in conference play. In 23 seasons as coach, Johnson has won 761 games and could reach an elite coaching milestone with 800 career wins sometime in 2018.
Johnson, who generally downplays his record, was more interested in talking about Peslak’s potential and how proud he is of the coaching staff.
“It is very difficult to get good coaches, and I am very lucky to have two, in Jackie, who is beginning her 10th year, and now, Jessica. Hopefully it will translate to the field. ”
And always enjoying some Essex County softball banter, Johnson couldn’t help but speculate.
“Half my team is from California and Florida,” said Johnson, with a chuckle. “But at least I have two All-Essex County players on my staff. I think I would have won the SEC and Essex County title with Jess on the mound, and Jackie catching.”
Speculation aside, Peslak’s addition to an already tremendous program should be a big plus, as the Cougars get ready for a new season.