South Brunswick High School has an experienced softball team with three standouts, shortstop Jessica Stadler, third baseman Lindsey Warick and first baseman Skylar Trimpert, at the top of its batting order.
The Vikings are 10-3 and they are scoring 8.7 runs per game. They even have two solid pitchers in senior Gabriella Brancaccio and junior Alexandra Zetchus. Most high school teams only have one strong hurler.
So all is well in Monmouth Junction, right? Well…pretty much.
Coach Heather Wells definitely has a strong core. But the rest of South Brunswick’s lineup, even more than halfway through the regular season, remains a chemistry experiment.
“There are a lot of young players and I’m figuring out where to put them,” Wells said. “It depends who’s getting better as far as who will earn the spots.”
Last spring, South Brunswick earned the top seed in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament and in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament. Despite entering both brackets as the favorite though, the Vikings fell short of winning both championships.
They lost to Old Bridge High School, 6-3, in the GMC semifinals and to Montgomery High School, 12-0, in the state sectional title game.
For Wells’ squad to break through this year, it will have to fill out its lineup. But fortunately, with such a robust nucleus, the coach can take all regular season to tinker. Even if she doesn’t figure things out until early May, the veterans will keep the Vikings in position to earn high seeds again.
They are already doing that, actually.
Warick, a senior, is the big bopper from the three hole in Wells’ batting order. She is hitting .750 with 12 extra base hits and 18 runs batted in, but that’s only when she gets a chance to swing.
Opponents often just walk Warick. The senior has drawn 15 free passes this season.
Between Warick in the three hole and Stadler, who has a team high 26 hits and a .542 batting average from the leadoff spot, the Vikings usually have runners on for Trimpert in the cleanup slot. Those situations used to freak Trimpert out.
But then last year in the GMC semifinal against Old Bridge, Trimpert roped a triple to the left-centerfield gap that tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Even though South Brunswick lost in extra innings, its cleanup hitter still did what Batman did in the Christopher Nolan trilogy: face her fear and overcome it.
“After that hit she was like, ‘Yes, I can do this,'” Wells said.
“I like batting fourth because the top of the lineup does a good job getting on,” Trimpert said. “I like being under pressure and getting to knock them in.”
Trimpert is second on the Vikings in RBIs this spring with 17.
In Stadler, Warick and Trimpert, Wells has three of the best hitters in the GMC and maybe even in Central Jersey, Group 4. And while she is still figuring out the rest, it’s not like she doesn’t have options.
A group of younger South Brunswick hitters are developing into varsity players.
Sophomore Ava Hutchison has seven stolen bases. Sophomore Giana Rappoccio is hitting .522. Freshman Gianna Vazquez is batting .409.
The chemistry experiment is coalescing into a postseason softball lineup. All is nearly well in Monmouth Junction.
“We’re growing and becoming stronger,” Brancaccio said.
“I think this team has good chemistry,” Wells added. “We should get far.”