Imagine stepping to the plate with your team down by a run in the seventh inning of a county tournament game with nobody on base, two outs and in the count you’re down to the final strike.
This was the scenario that Governor Livingston senior catcher Jenna Kulback was facing in a Union County Tournament quarterfinals game against Brearley in early May.
The Highlanders were the top-seed in the tournament and were one strike away from being upset by the ninth-seed. Kulback, the 2012 Courier News Softball Player of the Year, would make sure that her team had at least one more inning to fight.
With one swing of the bat the catcher sent a shot over the right-field fence to tie the game 5-5. Governor Livingston would eventually win that night and the tournament as well.
“I was so nervous going into it,” Kulback said. “I couldn’t even fathom what was going on. It was crazy walking up there. I was thinking ‘If I don’t do anything right now we lost and we’re out.’ So I just tried to ignore everybody and go up there and do my thing and I guess it worked since I hit a home run.”
“The home run she hit against Brearley, that might be a once in a lifetime chance,” Governor Livingston coach Rick Iacono said. “It was so climactic, with two strikes and nobody on. They had walked her twice previously so it was not like she got a good pitch, they stayed away from her and she said alright, ‘I’ll take it to right field,’ and she did. That’s the thing about her she’s a competitive kid.”
Entering her second season on the varsity squad Kulback was looking to build upon her success from last year.
“I was a little nervous,” Kulback said. “The catcher that we had before moved to third base because we didn’t have a third baseman and she was very good at catching so it was big shoes to fill. I was definitely nervous. There was a little bit of pressure this year because we were defending champions but we just played every game like it was a new game, like the record was 0-0.”
Kulback was a big part of the team’s success, in 82 at-bats she hit for a .585 batting average with four doubles, three triples, four home runs and 28 RBI with only six strikeouts. The catcher will now take her talents to Lafayette College where she will continue her playing career.
“I just got in there and did my thing,” Kulback said. “I went up there and knew that I needed to get hits, just singles that’s all I needed. If I got anything higher than a single it just happened. I just got up there and hit. I just did what I had to do for the team.”
The Highlanders catcher enjoyed an exceptional senior season, not only on a personal level but with the team as well. Governor Livingston captured its second UCT championship, Kulback drove in three runs in the game, won the Union County Conference Watchung Division title and finished the season 22-3.
Not only was the senior instrumental at the plate, but she was vital behind the plate as well handling junior pitcher Jordan Robbins and only committing an error.
“I talked her through everything,” Kulback said. “Just to make sure she was calm throughout the games and we talked through all of her pitches and why we throw each pitch. She took everything very well, we had a lot of back and forth talking.”
Iacono credits Kulback’s work ethic and personality for the success she had through her career at Governor Livingston.
“She worked very hard,” Iacono said. “She’s very low key and doesn’t get too upset if things don’t go well and she understands that sometimes success can be the enemy. She never quits and always believes that she can get the big hit. She’s a really humble player and not a bragger in anyway shape or form. I think she just enjoys playing.”