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J.P. Stevens softball team turns corner during big week

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Last week was spring break for John P. Stevens High School students.

But the school’s softball team refused to rest. Instead, the Hawks enjoyed the biggest week of their season.

Here’s what happened in the first three days of what would have been the school week.

Monday, April 22: J.P. Stevens beat South Brunswick High School, 4-2, at home in Edison.

Tuesday, April 23: The Hawks topped Old Bridge High School, 5-4, also on its home field.

Wednesday, April 24: The Hawks made the short trip in town and fell to Bishop George Ahr High School, 2-1, in 10 innings.

Two close victories and a tight loss. It doesn’t look like the most scintillating week.

But context matters here. South Brunswick and Bishop Ahr are two of the best teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference. And Old Bridge is a solid squad, too. These teams were better than the clubs J.P. Stevens had been beating in the weeks before.

So for a young team, the close victories and the tight loss proved that they belonged in the GMC Tournament conversation, to themselves and to their opponents. The one loss actually did that even more than the two victories.

Bishop Ahr is considered one of the best teams in central New Jersey.

“The fact that we put up that much of a fight is a great thing in itself,” said J.P. Stevens’ junior second baseman, Abby Jason.

“If we can compete with really good teams, we can take the whole (Red) Division,” added the team’s pitcher, senior Emily Tavares. 

With a couple weeks left in the regular season, J.P. Stevens is 7-3. It also has a couple qualities it didn’t have when the season began in early April.

In late March, with few players back from a 2018 team that went 20-6, J.P. Stevens coach Krystle Petty was confident because of two players—Tavares and her senior catcher, Alexis Medovoy.

“I’ve got my battery back,” Petty said at the time.

The battery has not disappointed, either. Tavares is 5-3 with a 3.35 earned run average and has recorded 70 strikeouts in 51.1 innings. Medovoy is hitting .360.

But during its big week, the younger starters around the battery came of age as varsity athletes.

Jason, the club’s leadoff hitter, scored a run against South Brunswick and Old Bridge. Freshman third baseman Lauren Hom scored a run and drove in a run in both of those games. And freshman shortstop Leila Ruiz scored three combined runs in those two victories.

“I feel really confident because we’ve been playing so well the past three days,” Hom said on April 25.

“There are a lot of freshmen starters and they turned a corner and started believing in themselves,” Petty added.

The ninth-year coach worked with the freshmen class during summer camps before they got to J.P. Stevens last fall. She knew they were a good class, but not this good.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised with the level of play they’ve brought,” Petty said.

Now, with such a strong supporting cast around Tavares and Medovoy, the Hawks can make noise in the postseason in general, not just in the GMC Tournament.

“The sky is the limit,” Petty said. “These girls are hungry and freshmen can be dangerous because they don’t have any preconceived notions. They just go out there and let it fly.” 

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