Howell High School graduated six collegiate recruits, including starting pitcher Cassidy Predale, from a softball team that went 20-3 in 2018.
The Rebels were not supposed to be that good again this spring, despite returning a senior laden lineup.
They were definitely not supposed to repeat as the Shore Conference’s A North Division champion. In the preseason, media outlets picked Howell to finish third in the A North Division behind Middletown High School South and Freehold Township High School.
Then the regular season started and the Rebels proved everybody wrong.
They swept Middletown South for the first time in school history, beat Freehold Township three times and finished 11-1 in division play, winning the A North league for the second straight year.
“The girls truly exceeded expectations,” said Howell coach Tricia Savino.
Those expectations sold the Rebels a little short, though. Savino’s lineup features six seniors, four of whom contributed last year, too. There was no reason why they couldn’t replicate or build on their success from a year ago.
But the preseason predictions were focusing on one glaring hole: the big circle in the middle of the field. Howell lost Predale, now a freshman pitcher at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., after the 2018 campaign. And Predale enjoyed a sterling final season at Howell, going 19-3 with a 2.78 earned run average and 136 strikeouts in 126.2 innings.
It is conventional wisdom that a high school softball team needs a great pitcher to win championships, and no obvious hurler presented herself on Howell’s roster before this season. But like the Rebels themselves, then the season started and that pitcher emerged.
Sophomore right-hander Maddy Lowry is not a dominant strikeout hurler like Predale, at least not yet. But she is pretty good at getting hitters out.
Lowry is 16-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 2019. She is also allowing less than a baserunner per frame.
“It always starts on the mound and Maddy has been a workhorse,” Savino said. “She only threw 16 innings last year but showed great poise and confidence.”
The sophomore has benefitted from working with a senior catcher in Victoria Fama, a Misericordia University recruit. Fama calls pitches for Lowry, after they develop game plans from studying opponents’ box scores.
“They work great together,” Savino said.
Lowry has also profited from Howell’s experienced, prolific lineup of seniors. The Rebels score 7.6 runs per game.
Fama has a .560 on-base percentage. Senior left fielder Emily Maciolek, a Montclair State University signee, is batting .529 with 23 runs scored and 21 runs batted in.
Senior third baseman Jessica Cancel, senior shortstop Alexis Post, senior first baseman Kristina Pelano and senior second baseman Julia Canal are all hitting .333 or above.
“They are having a great season and we hope to keep our offensive momentum going,” Savino said.