By Rich Fisher
Because she will focus on nursing in college, Bordentown High senior centerfielder Anastasia Salera played her last season of scholastic softball this spring. As far as career finales go, Salera feels she is going out on a high note.
“Entering this season, I had a really great feeling about this team,” she said. “We mesh so well together and I knew the freshmen would blend right in this season. As any player would, I wish we went all the way like I know we could have. But I’m proud of the season we had, it was definitely one to remember.”
The Scotties finished 14-7 and reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship game before losing to eventual state champion Robbinsville. For Hillary (Allen) Tucker, who co-coaches the team with Nicole Lawless, it was a happy case of a team fulfilling its potential.
“I think the girls did amazing this year,” Tucker said. “I knew we had a talented group. It was nice to see them play so well because I knew they could play so well. It makes coaching really easy when you know you have girls that want to come out, want to win, want to work hard at every practice and every game and always give it their all. I knew if they stayed true to themselves they would have a good season and they really had a great season.”
The coach counted season highlights as a strong performance in the Rancocas Valley Tournament, a win over talented Northern Burlington in which the Scotties tied a team record with five home runs, and the run to the sectional final. A key to season was the contributions of her three seniors—Salera, pitcher Debra Jones and shortstop Amelia Ditolvo.
Ditolvo, who will play at St. John’s, hit .382 with two home runs, five doubles, two triples, 11 RBI and a .603 slugging percentage. Jones, who has a scholarship to Rider, hit a team-leading .486 (.657 slugging) with two homers and 15 RBI. In the circle she went 12-7 with a 1.82 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 134 innings. Salera, who’s headed for Mercer County Community College, hit .317 with three home runs and 19 RBI. She tied Ditolvo and Mackenza Goleniecki for most runs scored with 21.
“Anastasia is very talented and a couple schools wanted her to play,” Tucker said. “She made her choice to focus on nursing in college. She’s an amazing softball player, with an incredible bat and she was amazing defensively.”
“I contemplated not playing and focusing on school for a little while,” Salera said. “It was definitely going to be a big change in my life. Softball was my life for the past eight-plus years of travel softball on the Jersey Bandits. The hardest part is detaching from the game I loved. But I will always cherish the opportunities and friendships softball has presented to me throughout all these years. I’m definitely ready to move on to the next step of my life.”
As for Ditolvo and Jones, Tucker said one would never realize they were Division I scholarship players by the way they handled themselves. They were more like freshmen trying to make varsity.
“You wouldn’t know if they were signed or not signed,” the coach said. “They work so hard and are so talented. You know they’re playing in college but their work ethic shows all the way through. Putting the college thing aside, they have fun working hard and playing well together. I don’t think (scholarships) changed who they were on the field. All three seniors were just a group that works so hard and constantly want to improve as players and make the team better.”
Teams do not succeed with just three seniors, however. Youngsters need to make a difference, and that was the case with Bordentown.
“We have strong kids all the way through the program,” Tucker said. “A lot of the kids play softball outside of high school and have a lot of talent. I’m excited to see some of the girls fill in those positions the seniors had. I know Amelia, Deb and Anastasia were working closely with underclassmen. I think they’ll transition well into positions we need to fill. It just says a lot about the girls and how hard they work and their motivation to get better.”
Helping solidify Bordentown’s defense up the middle was sophomore catcher Goleniecki, who hit .382 with eight home runs, a triple, four doubles and a team-high 28 RBI. She had an off-the-charts slugging percentage of .824.
Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Mackenzie Drummond hit .292 and was third on the team with 16 RBI, sophomore third baseman Michaela Luyber hit .254 with seven doubles, 13 RBI and 18 runs scored, while sophomore rightfielder/pitcher Annabella Marino hit .295 with 11 runs. Freshman Annabella Pisapia batted .362 with 18 runs scored, and junior Noelle Gramlich batted .389.
It was a group that meshed well between the older and younger players.
“We discovered that we all play with heart,” Salera said. “Every game, whether win or lose, we play until the last inning. We took the games we lost and learned from them so whether we re-matched with that team or not we took it to the next game.”
The result was a second trip to the sectional finals in Tucker’s and Lawless’ four years running the program. The Scotties have compiled a 67-21 record during that time, which will always have a special meaning to Salera.
“This team really means a lot to me,” she said. “They’re some of my best friends. You know your teammates better than anyone. Having each other to support you not only at your highs but when at your lows, is something I truly cherish. I love being there to cheer up my teammates and cheer them on. Making my team laugh and maintaining a positive energy is what I really tried to achieve every practice and every game I could.”