Even though Haley Allen has plenty of games ahead of her in college, she wanted to ensure that her Ewing High School softball career ended on a high note.
The senior shortstop is one of the leaders that has brought along a Blue Devils team that put together its best games in the second half of the season.
“We definitely have come together as a team,” Haley said. “It just connected. I didn’t know what happened. It all just connected.”
A team pasta party when the team played card games and bonded may have helped. It also helped to have strong leadership at the top of the lineup and in key spots in the field to support the team’s growth.
“We were struggling,” said Ewing head coach Dan Bernoski. “We were 7-8 and then we started to play better. We won 7 of the last 9. If there’s such a thing as peaking, we’re peaking at the right time.”
Allen has been an important piece at shortstop in the field and even bigger at the plate while batting third behind Devon Kueny and Jentle Sheridan.
“They’re more speed, I’m more the power,” Allen said. “It starts the team up when they’re on. Devon has been my best friend for so long. When she gets on that gives me the confidence to get her in and get on.”
Next year, they will be going their separate ways. Sheridan is a junior who will return, but Kueny, the Blue Devils pitcher this season, likely will play outfield at Dickinson College while Allen will join both the soccer and softball teams at the Mercer County Community College.
“It wasn’t my plan to play soccer in college, but I got a scholarship for both,” said Allen, who played a forward for Ewing’s soccer team last fall.
Allen has always put a little more time into her softball, and she has relished the final chances to play with her Ewing High softball teammates. She has grown every year for the Blue Devils. Allen, who plays travel softball for the Ewing Edge, broke into the varsity as a sophomore, then jumped into a regular starting role last year. She’s played catcher and this year she’s been at her favorite position, shortstop. She’s brought a big bat to the order and has been an example of what progress looks like.
“We told them at the beginning of the year, you have to set goals,” Bernoski said. “She was in the mid-20s in hits last year. She’s at 30 right now.”
Allen’s first 30 hits of the season reflect some of the power that has her batting third. Ten of her 30 hits are doubles and another is a triple. The only thing that’s missing is a home run. She hit two dingers as a junior, including a grand slam in the Central Jersey Group 3 state tournament.
“Definitely doing extra drills has helped me,” Allen said. “Coach is a wonderful coach. He doesn’t nitpick. He gets down to it and goes right at it. He never puts you down. He’s always positive.”
That consistent approach helped to push Ewing’s lineup in the right direction over the latter portion of the year. There has been team-wide improvement.
“We weren’t hitting the ball the way we’re hitting the ball now,” Bernoski said. “We were struggling. We weren’t getting much from the bottom of the lineup. This past week, we were getting some help.”
The Blue Devils picked up a huge confidence builder when they edged Allentown, 2-1, a week before facing them in the first round of the states, a game which they won 11-4 on May 15. The team lost in in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals, 8-0, to Burlington Township on May 21.
Allen said she is was pleased with the way Ewing played down the stretch. It means a to her to be able to play a few more games together with a team that’s improved drastically over her final scholastic season. Getting a few more games together is all any of the seniors want.
“It definitely gives us way more motivation and heart to play as a team,” Allen said. “From our seniors, we tell the other players not only play for the team but play for us. Come and leave everything out there.”