Softball Preview: Raritan looks for another title run

Softball Preview: Raritan looks for another title run


Softball Preview: Raritan looks for another title run


Bethany Evans believes Raritan’s ideal softball season won’t necessarily be measured based on wins and when those victories occur.

“Every one of us knows that we can’t depend on ourselves to win each game,” said the junior first baseman and outfielder. “We’re confident in each other, the way we play and the effort we put in. The ideal season would be that each of the girls puts in her 100 percent effort on both offense and defense and never puts her head down, no matter what.”

And while head coach Aado Kommendant nor any of his Rockets have specifically set goals for the season, there is a sense heading into it that the Rockets have what it takes to win some big games, particularly later in the season.

“We want to get off to a hot start in April and continue it,” said Kommendant, whose squad went 22-10 last spring and earned a fourth trip to the NJSIAA Central Group II title game in five years, coming up short, 1-0, against eventual state champ Robbinsville. “We have no specific goals. We just want to get better and improve Raritan Rocket softball every day. And we want to do whatever it takes to make that improvement.”

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Fortunately for the Rockets, the schedule they endure each season, particularly within the Shore Conference Class A Central division — playing the likes of St. John Vianney, Red Bank Catholic and Manasquan, to name a few — prepares them for later success once the tournaments roll around.

“Our schedule definitely benefits our team, because it prepares us for whatever adversity we’re going to face later in the season,” said junior shortstop Daniella Marino. “Besides our division being tough, we also play tough competition outside the conference and it helps us for the bigger games later.”

Of course, Kommendant purposely tries to schedule tough teams, and the battle scars his program has to show for it are many.

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Last season, the Rockets trudged through eight losses during their first 19 games, including two against non-conference foes Saddle Brook and Morris Knolls, both top-tier programs in North Jersey, before ripping off 11 straight wins that brought them to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and the Central II final.

With a majority of last year’s players back this spring, Kommendant has confidence in his squad that they can pull through in tight games against solid programs.

“I’m willing to hitch my wagon on this team,” he said. “Our strength is our experience. I have a lot of confidence in this team, as a group and as individuals. We’ve been through a lot of adversity over the last three years and that’s made us stronger.

“I know how they react to adversity, so now I want to see how they react to success.”

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Being the only senior on the roster, pitcher Emily Schaffer wouldn’t flat-out say success is based on whether the Rockets can clear the hurdle in Central II and win the section crown, but she did say having “a good run in the state tournament” would mean something special to her.

“Of course, I’d love to go out with a bang,” she said. “We have a very good chance of winning the section tournament because we have a lot of talented players, including some freshmen who’ve come up to varsity. But we don’t overlook anybody. We’re going to take it one game at a time, have fun overall, and whatever happens will happen.”

And if anybody expects Kommendant to say whether this could be the year his squad clears that section-final hurdle, forget it.

“I’ll put it this way. I don’t plan on the season ending earlier than June,” he said. “But that’s like any other season. I just hope every senior class becomes the winningest senior class in Raritan Rocket softball history, because that means we’re doing something right.”


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