By all accounts, Ashley Lombardi and Emily Tavares are not selfish people.
But they are people, so both entered the 2018 softball season with self interests while they focused on leading their softball team at John P. Stevens High School to a successful campaign.
Lombardi, a senior All-New Jersey player, wanted to play the infield because she was going to play it in college at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY. Tavares, a junior pitcher, wanted to be the team’s main hurler, a spot Lombardi had held down for two years at the Edison school.
Those self interests made the Hawks a better team last spring.
Lombardi fielded well and hit even better, batting .442 and producing 55 runs (22 runs batted in, 33 runs scored). Tavares broke out in the circle, going 20-6 and striking out 199 batters in 170 innings.
The duo also led the Hawks to the semifinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 Tournament. J.P. Stevens fell to Bishop George Ahr High School, 4-2, in the GMC semifinals and Watchung Hills Regional High School, 5-0, in the state sectional semis.
Lombardi graduated after the season, but Tavares is back for her senior campaign.
Now she is the new Lombardi: J.P. Stevens’ senior captain and best player. The Hawks began the season with a road game at Edison High School on April 1. Tavares was in the circle, just like she will be all spring.
“Emily held up her end of the bargain last year,” said J.P. Stevens coach Krystle Petty. “She throws hard and has a lot of movement.”
“I feel really good about the upcoming season,” Tavares added. “I know the team is counting on me.”
J.P. Stevens will be depending strongly on Tavares. Petty has three new starters in the infield and two more in the outfield.
But the coach does have one key starter back to aid Tavares: the pitcher’s catcher, old friend and fellow senior captain, Alexis Medovoy.
Medovoy also earned what she wanted last spring: the starting catcher spot. She became the starter after watching her predecessor, Brianna Zederbaum, handle the Hawks’ pitchers for two years.
In 2018, Medovoy developed into Zederbaum junior, framing pitches to convince umpires and playing therapist with Tavares in the circle. The junior nailed catching’s idiosyncrasies in her first season as the backstop.
“Emily and Alexis read each other’s minds,” Petty said. “Alexis knows exactly when to call time and how to move forward from negativity.”
Softball is different from baseball in one major way. The pitcher’s underhanded motion does not tire an arm like baseball’s overhanded motion, so female pitchers can start and finish almost every game.
Tavares went 20-6 last year, and so did J.P. Stevens. With this dynamic in play, a battery can have an outsized impact on a team’s success.
That’s why Petty called having her battery back “more than half the battle” for competing at a high level again.
“We are hoping to be a top team,” Petty said.
There was a deeper reason why Tavares wanted the pitching spot so badly last year. Her upperclassmen years at J.P. Stevens will likely be her last two seasons of competitive softball.
The senior is not planning on playing at the collegiate level. She said she wants to “experience life without it.”
But Tavares still loves her childhood game, and she wants to make the most of her final campaign.
“I give 110 percent every game,” Tavares said.