For 25 seasons, Debbie Schwartz has called the shots from Toms River East’s dugout, gotten in the umpire’s face when she felt her team received the wrong call, and basically has poured her heart and soul into the softball program she built into a Shore Conference powerhouse.
And all for one reason.
“It’s all about the kids,” she said following the Raiders’ 6-0 victory over Mater Dei in Saturday’s Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, giving her career victory No. 500. “It’s really not about me. It never has been, and that’s why I think we’ve been really successful.”
Schwartz took over the head coaching position from Rick Dispoto in 1998 and, beside taking a year off (1991) to have a baby, she has been with the program through a highly successful ride, amassing 500 victories and losing 166 games.
During her tenure, Schwartz’s teams have averaged 20 wins per season — the only losing season occurring when the Raiders went 11-12 in 1995. Since 2003, Schwartz’s squads have won no less than 19 games (once, in 2011) and won 30 or more in two consecutive seasons (2007 and 2008).
With Schwartz guiding the program alongside assistant coach Dawn Dziedzic, who joined Schwartz’s staff in 1990, the Raiders have won 17 Shore Conference Class A South division titles, nine Ocean County Tournament crowns, three Shore Conference Tournament championships and two NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV titles.
“It’s been great, and we’re a team,” Dziedzic said. “Debbie has made Toms River East known throughout the state. When people talk Toms River East softball, they’re talking about how good of a program we have here, and that’s a real credit to Debbie.”
Senior Jordan Weed, who struck out 11 en route to the victory in Saturday’s semifinal, has been pitching for four years under Schwartz and said helping get Schwartz’s 500th was an honor for her.
Ironically, it wasn’t decided until several days ago that the SCT semifinal would be at Toms River East. Because the other side of the bracket had been backed up due to rainouts, tournament director and Wall coach Tony Vodola opted to allow the higher seeds to play on their home fields since Wall High School wasn’t able to host both semifinals in one day.
“To get this game on our home turf got me really fired up,” Weed said. “I was more excited to throw this game knowing it was going to be here, and that I’d have a part in helping Coach Schwartz get that 500th win. I’ve had a great four years here, and to contribute to this means a lot to me.”