For many years the Piscataway High School softball program has been at the bottom of the standings in the Greater Middlesex Conference, not having won more than five games in a season since 2000.
This year the Chiefs are no longer at the bottom and, in fact, had won seven of their past eight games entering their NJSIAA North 2 Group IV first-round game against Franklin on Tuesday.
Behind a big day from a pair of sophomores in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the lineup — catcher Julia Seader and second baseman Michelle Gebhardt — fifth-seeded Piscataway easily defeated Franklin 11-2 to extend its win streak to eight of its past nine and advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Watchung Hills.
“I think it’s just been a combination of hard work, some of our younger players have really stepped up, and then our senior leadership has really kind of come into their own,” fifth-year Piscataway coach Chuck Poole Jr. said. “I think it just started clicking once we began to mesh a little bit more as a unit.”
The win was also Piscataway’s (12-10) first state playoff win and clinched its first winning season in at least the past 15 seasons.
“Our team has gotten together this season and we’ve played like we never have before,” Gebhardt said. “I just think the success we’ve had so far is amazing.”
Seader and Gebhardt both went 3-for-3 with two RBI and four runs scored in the win as the Chiefs led 9-0 after four innings.
Gebhardt hit an RBI single in the first and an RBI triple in the fourth while Seader hit a two-run double in the fourth, one of three extra-base hits she recorded as she also tripled in the third and doubled in the sixth.
“I feel like we’ve meshed as a team together,” Seader said. “I think this team works together and combines very good and we all have each others’ backs. Our quote is ‘hold the rope’ — everyone trusts each other and we have each others’ backs.
Sarah Vocisano, batting fifth, went 2-for-4 with two RBI while Amanda Siedlicki, batting behind Vocisano, also drove in four runs and collected a hit as the middle of the Chiefs’ order accounted for all nine of their hits.
Freshman pitcher Sarah Olglvie was effective as well for the Chiefs, as she struck out nine, walked three, and allowed two earned runs on four hits as she carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning.
“Sarah’s just a great pitcher, she definitely works at it everyday,” Seader said.
Amanda Jordan got Franklin’s (7-14) first hit, a double, with one out in the fourth while the Warriors scored two runs in the top of the sixth when Salonika Muhammad and Jordan both singled and scored on Sarah Smith’s two-run single.