As long as senior pitcher Malori Bell is in the circle for Middletown High School North, the Lions have an 80 percent chance of winning.
Bell is 44-11 in two seasons as Middletown North’s softball ace.
In 2019, the senior also has a 1.13 earned run average and 341 strikeouts in 184 innings.
This should all make the Lions feel very good about their upcoming stretch, which is sure to be a gauntlet.
Middletown North is still alive in three postseason tournaments, the Monmouth County Tournament, the Shore Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional tournament.
And they are all taking place simultaneously.
Luckily, Middletown North will be using the same standout pitcher in every game. Bell has thrown 184 out of 185 innings for the Lions this season. She also gets better as she pitches more and more.
“If anyone’s ready to do it, it’s her,” said Middletown North coach Chris Hoffman. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years and there’s no one I’d rather have on the mound to go for it.”
Bell throws just about every day anyway. After school she practices with the team or pitches in games. Then she goes and works with a private coach. On the weekends, she tosses the ball around with her dad.
Pitching is like breathing to her at this point.
“No one works harder than her,” Hoffman said.
Naturally, Bell will continue pitching in college next year when she attends Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan campus in Teaneck.
But before she pitches for the Division 1 program at FDU, she wants to lead her Lions team to a memorable postseason.
Bell is not one to count strikeouts, only victories. The senior has thrown two perfect games in 2019. After one, a 3-0 home victory over Matawan Regional High School on April 4, a reporter had to tell Bell that she had tossed a perfecto. She didn’t even realize it on her own.
“She said, ‘Wait a minute, I just threw a perfect game?'” Hoffman said, chuckling. “She doesn’t care about stats.”
Bell knows that she would not have such great stats without a great team behind her in the field, and supporting her at the plate. Middletown North has four other key seniors, senior second baseman Cara McNulty, catcher Adriana Cerbo, third baseman Jacey Tammaro and first baseman Ashley Kofsky, who, along with Bell, form a strong core.
McNulty, a Saint Peter’s University commit, is hitting .567 with 28 runs scored and 27 runs batted in. Cerbo has 20 RBI. Kofsky has 28 RBI and 15 runs. Tammaro has been “great in the field,” Hoffman said.
These Lions have been playing especially well of late, beating their last four opponents by a combined score of 28-1.
“I met with them yesterday and said, ‘You’re all playing well at once and there’s not a better time of year to get hot,'” Hoffman said. “We’ll go as far as they take us.”
“We don’t want this to be over,” he added.
Middletown North’s next Shore Conference Tournament game will be a semifinal at Donovan Catholic High School on May 29. Bell will be in the circle.
“Is she tiring? I don’t know, but she’s used to it,” Hoffman said. “She’s in a rhythm.”