Pa­tri­ots off to good start

NCS soft­ball cred­its team­work for success

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BUZBY JonBuzby@hot­mail.com

Like all of the lo­cal spring sports pro­grams, Newark Char­ter’s soft­ball team bat­tled the lion roar of March at the on­set of the 2018 sea­son. How­ever, based on the team’s early sea­son record, the Pa­tri­ots ap­pear to have won the bat­tle over Mother Na­ture.

“Newark Char­ter has a great gym. With an in­door bat­ting cage, we have been able to uti­lize through the first month or so of prac­tice when needed, which has been a lot this sea­son,” third-year head coach Jes­sica Calderone said. “We’ve had to get creative with some of the drills we do. When the team comes to prac­tice ev­ery day with such an op­ti­mistic at­ti­tude and the de­sire to im­prove, it’s easy. We could hon­estly prac­tice any­where.”

The con­sis­tent prac­tice rou­tine en­abled Newark Char­ter to jump out to a 4-0 start be­fore record­ing its first loss this week. The Pa­tri­ots de­feated Mid­dle­town (5-2), Red Lion Chris­tian Academy (14-3), Hodg­son Vo-Tech (111) and Wil­liam Penn Char­ter (Pa.) (15-1).

“The coach­ing staff has stressed since the first day of prac­tice that the team comes be­fore the in­di­vid­ual player, and the team has ex­em­pli­fied that in our first four games,” Calderone ex­plained. “We are play­ing very unselfish soft­ball right now. Girls are get­ting the sac­ri­fice bunts down, they are hav­ing key hits to the out­field with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion and they are pick­ing each other up.”

Se­nior Caitlin Pon­tak has stepped up at the plate and in the cir­cle. She picked up the vic­tory in all four wins, giv­ing up just seven runs while boast­ing a 2.23 ERA.

“The key to my pitch­ing success is all thanks to my team,” Pon­tak ex­plained. “In the cir­cle, all I can con­trol is where I throw my pitches. Af­ter that, if the bat­ter hits the ball, my team is there to back me up and help get outs. It also helps that coach Jess is giv­ing me great pitch calls and has con­fi­dence in me and my pitches and still re­mains con­fi­dent in me af­ter I miss a spot.”

Pon­tak is just as suc­cess­ful on the other side of a pitch, boast­ing a .500 av­er­age at the plate.

“I have great coaches that are con­fi­dent in my swing,” Pon­tak said. “I go up to the plate with a mind­set that I have to get my job done, whether that be to get on base, hit a hard ball to get run­ners in, or to lay down a bunt to move run­ners along. Coach Jess tells us all the time to not be self­ish when we are up at the plate. Mean­ing, do what is best for the team even if it means that you might be the one that gets out.”

Bella Ha­gen is an­other player who doesn’t get out of­ten. The ju­nior cen­ter­fielder has a .600 av­er­age with eight RBIs and eight runs scored in the first four games.

“I be­lieve that con­fi­dence and be­liev­ing in your­self and your team is key,” Ha­gen said. “When you know that your team has your back and will pick you up if you’re down, then the game is a lot less stress­ful.”

Calderone first de­vel­oped her team-first phi­los­o­phy as a player at St. Mark’s and Robert Mor­ris Univer­sity in Pitts­burgh. She then went on to coach in the Orange Crush soft­ball or­ga­ni­za­tion and as an as­sis­tant un­der Greg Shiv­ery when Newark Char­ter fielded a ju­nior var­sity team for the first time in 2014.

“We fo­cus on what we can do each day –whether in prac­tice or a game – to bet­ter our team­mates and to bet­ter our­selves,” Calderone said. “We fo­cus on the things we can con­trol, like ef­fort, en­ergy and at­ti­tude, and the job that each player has. If we can con­tinue to work hard, con­tinue to im­prove each day through­out the sea­son and con­tinue to get our jobs done, there is no doubt in my mind that we will ac­com­plish our goal and hope­fully a lit­tle more.”

That goal is to re­turn to the state tour­na­ment for the sec­ond straight year. Last sea­son, Newark Char­ter made the post­sea­son for the first time in just the sec­ond year that the rel­a­tively new pro­gram was el­i­gi­ble. A 3-0 loss to Sus­sex Tech in the open­ing round pro­vided the Pa­tri­ots with all the mo­ti­va­tion they need to re­turn to the state tour­na­ment.

“Our over­all team goal is to make the state tour­na­ment this year and not be sent home in the first round,” Calderone said.

Newark Char­ter suf­fered its first loss of the sea­son on Mon­day to Del­mar.

“Hope­fully we can learn from that loss,” Calderone said of the 6-0 set­back at Folk Park. “Some­times a loss can ben­e­fit a team more than a win. [I’m] hop­ing that will be the case.”

If the Pa­tri­ots learn from that loss and go on to suc­ceed, it will be as a team – a team that en­joys play­ing to­gether on the field, and hanging out to­gether off it.

“This team has great chem­istry on and off the field,” Calderone said. “They have strong friend­ships with one an­other and they gen­uinely care about each other. They have a lot of fun play­ing to­gether and that has shown in our play.”

Newark Char­ter’s com­plete sched­ule is at www.nc­spa­tri otss­ports.com/page33336.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Newark Char­ter’s soft­ball team has a 4-1 record to be­gin the sea­son.

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