Barnegat Softball Squad May Play Spoiler Role This Season
Following a loss to Brick earlier this month, Barnegat softball coach Michael Palmieri didn’t have much to say about his team being in what many consider to be the best division in the Shore Conference this season.
“It is what it is,” said the third-year Bengals skipper. “That’s about all I can say. It just is what it is.”
And so far this spring, his Bengals seem to be taking the “it is what it is” mantra in stride, and even made a little bit of noise during the first week when they bounced Shore Conference Class B South foe and defending Ocean County champion Jackson Liberty, 2-1, in their opener on April 5.
“When you’re in the division we’re in, there’s not much you can do except play your best and hope it’s a good day,” said senior Emma Lloyd, who’s toeing the rubber of the pitcher’s circle this season. “We have enough experienced players to come out and be competitive in each game. Nobody’s expecting us to win the division, that’s for sure. But maybe we can mess with some teams that will be trying to win it. You never know what’s going to happen once you’re on the field.”
Exhibit A was the win over Liberty, which has a veteran pitcher and a solid core of its lineup back from last year. But the Bengals are going to have to make more exhibits out of several other teams within B South if they want to have any shot at getting close to the title, starting with a stacked Donovan Catholic squad, which is the defending NJSIAA Non-Public South A champion. Barnegat’s first shot at the Griffins ended in a 5-1 loss on April 10, as the Bengals fell behind in the first inning, 3-0, and only managed a run in the third and just four hits for the game.
Beyond the Griffins – the favorite to win the division – there will be a public school division title to go after. To grab that, the Bengals likely have to go through both Pinelands, which brought back its entire lineup from last year’s 19-6 team led by junior pitcher Jessie Rising, and Lacey, the defending South Jersey Group III champ led by senior pitcher Chelsea Howard.
“We have good players on this team,” said outfielder Megan Magoon, one of a half-dozen seniors leading Barnegat this season. “The key for us will be scoring runs off the better pitchers in the division. If we can score some runs and play solid defense behind Emma, we may surprise a few teams. We’re definitely going to try our best to make that happen.”
Besides Lloyd and Magoon, one of the big cogs in the Barnegat machine – on both offense and defense – is senior catcher Roxy Urso, the team’s best hitter from last season’s 10-12 squad and an excellent defensive player. The rest of the senior crew includes infielder Tymera Crudup, first baseman Devon Leary and infielder Sydney McEneaney.
The Bengals have a bunch of other returning players who have stepped up into bigger roles this season, and they’re going to be needed in every game the rest of the way if Barnegat plans on finishing well above the .500 mark. Among them are junior infielder Alyson Meany, sophomore shortstop Molly McEneaney and sophomore outfielder Tori Leonard. Juniors Destiny Hughes and Amber Kantenwein, sophomore Kiersten Breyta and freshmen Alaina DeSanti and Priscilla Pitiak make up the remainder of the team.
“We have a good mix of players,” Magoon said. “We have some young players who have become vital to our team, and we need everybody on board this season. We need everybody to do her part and contribute.”
After splitting their first four games, the Bengals went 2-1 during the remainder of their spring-break week and went into their April 20 contest against Lacey with a 4-3 overall mark.
Two days after the win over Jackson Liberty, the Bengals couldn’t get anything going against Brick pitcher Christine Frazee, who had 14 strikeouts, and dropped a 6-0 contest. But on April 8, as part of the Strike Out Autism Challenge, Barnegat bounced back against Kamryn Hubeny and won a 9-8 contest over Henry Hudson. The Bengals scored five runs in the fifth and never looked back. During the contest, Urso smashed a two-run homer – the first of her career.
Following the loss to Donovan and another to Manchester, Barnegat rebounded with back-to-back victories – a 13-0 drubbing of division rival Lakewood and a 12-4 win over non-divisional foe Neptune.
Against the Neptune Scarlet Fliers, Sydney McEneaney had three hits and three RBIs, while Molly McEneaney brought in four runs and Urso drove in three more. Lloyd allowed just four hits and fanned six. Against the Lakewood Piners, Lloyd threw a one-hitter with eight strikeouts, while Sydney McEneaney went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, Kantenwein and Leary each went 2-for-2, and Molly McEneaney and Magoon also had two hits.
— David Biggy