Nick Scalzo has been coaching the Marlboro High School softball team for 11 years.
Before 2019, the Mustangs had never made it past the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament or the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.
But in 2019, Marlboro advanced past the second round of the Shore Conference bracket, winning two tournament games, 13-0 over Keansburg High School in the first round on May 17. and 1-0 over Raritan High School in the second round on May 18.
The run ended when the Mustangs, the No. 11 seed, fell to third-seeded Middletown High School North, 7-0, in the conference tournament quarterfinals on May 22. They also lost to Middletown High School South, 1-0, in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.
Those losses, though, did not diminish a 16-10 campaign for the Mustangs, especially since they accomplished something they hadn’t achieved in the last decade: getting past the second round in a postseason tournament.
“That was huge for the program,” Scalzo said. “I’m totally happy with the season.”
“It was my favorite season for sure,” said Jody Thomas, Marlboro’s senior third baseman.
Thomas was part of a class of seven seniors who led the Mustangs to a 30-19 record over the last two years. They all thrived in 2019, when Marlboro’s lineup averaged six runs per game.
Thomas batted .486 with 28 runs scored and 28 runs batted in. Senior shortstop Madison Rallis hit .400 with 22 runs and 15 RBI. Senior outfielder Kayleigh Ferraro batted .359 with 16 RBI and 12 runs. Senior first baseman Nicole Santigate recorded a .383 batting average with 12 runs and 12 RBI.
The balanced lineup complemented Marlboro’s senior pitcher, Alexandra Cavallaro, who posted a 12-9 record and completed 117 innings.
“It will be tough to replace these seniors. They meant everything to me and the program,” Scalzo said. “They really care about the program and team.”
But Marlboro also started three freshmen in 2019, Alyson Levito at shortstop, Ally Hochstader at catcher and Marissa Kramer in right field. Earlier in the spring, during a team trip to Florida, the senior Mustangs took the freshmen under their wing, bonding with them by discussing the standards of the program.
By the end of the season, the younger Mustangs could run drills and even practices on their own, just like the seniors could. Scalzo prefers it that way, so he can oversee everything and intervene when necessary.
“It’s like having other coaches out there, and the young kids are learning from that,” he said. “I can’t ask for much more.”
The freshmen played well, too, in their first season as varsity starters. Levito succeeded at one of the most difficult positions on the field. Hochstader hit .433 with three home runs, 11 RBI and 30 runs. Kramer ended the campaign with a .344 average.
This trio will form the core of Marlboro’s 2020 club. That thought excites Scalzo. The coach believes they can help maintain Marlboro’s high standards.
“I don’t even look at them as freshmen anymore,” Scalzo said. “They are playing beyond their years and will only get better.”
But the coach will still miss his seniors.
“Having the freshmen makes it a little easier losing seven seniors, but not that much,” he said.