The Hunterdon Central High School softball team is enjoying a very nice turnaround, fresh off two straight losing seasons, its firsts in close to three decades.
At the forefront of the Red Devils’ resurgence has been senior right-hander Karissa Zubulake, the Courier News Softball Player of the Week. Zubulake has been key in the circle and at the plate, as Central has posted an 11-3 mark entering play Friday.
Zubulake went 3-0 last week, allowing just two earned runs and three hits, striking out 20 in 19 innings. At the plate she added a 5-for-9 week, with a double and three runs scored.
For the season, the righty is 8-3 with a 3.16 ERA and is hitting .308 with two doubles and a homer.
“Karissa has shown me that she is a leader on the team and her consistency in the circle is a reflection of her strong work ethic,” Hunterdon Central coach Kelly Karp said. “She’s an important contributing factor to our team’s success.
Two former area softball stars coaching at their alma maters reached the 100-victory milestone this week.
Bound Brook’s Shannon DeLuca and Westfield’s Caitlin MacDonald were both standouts during their days as player at their respective schools, and both have enjoyed success since moving to the coaching box.
DeLuca (nee Markey), who was an all-state second baseman for the Crusaders and a four-year varsity letterwinner before graduating in 1990, was part of three state sectional championship teams. After playing at Ryder, DeLuca spent seven seasons at Bound Brook as an assistant under Hall of Fame coach Steve Kania, as the Crusaders won three county titles, four sectionals crowns and two state championships. She took over head coaching duties in 2002, departing after two seasons, before returning in 2009 to lead Bound Brook to three straight winning seasons, including two conference titles.
“When I played softball for Bound Brook, we prided ourselves on our perseverance, commitment to the team, and ability to battle for the win,” said DeLuca, who was on the staff in 1997 when the Crusaders finished 31-0 and won the state Group I title. “And I have instilled the same values and traditions in my players.”
DeLuca who upped her career mark to 100-82 with Tuesday’s 7-0 victory over South River, a win that improved the Crusaders to 11-0 this season. They’ve since improved to 13-0.
MacDonald, who was an ace pitcher for Westfield before graduating in 2002, spent three full seasons on varsity, as well as getting into a handful of games her freshman year. She also played field hockey for the Blue Devils.
She took over as head coach in 2009 and has since led Westfield to three seasons of 20-plus victories, as well as back-to-back Union County Tournament championships the past two years.
“I got handed a very nice program, first from (former coaches) Maggie McFadden and then from Tara Pignoli,” said MacDonald, who notched No. 100 Monday in a win over Scotch Plains-Fanwood, elevating her career mark to 100-54. “So I got a lot of it handed to me. Now I’m just looking on to the next goal.”
County tournament roundup
Time to get serious in the local county tournaments, as all three that are underway reach quarterfinals this weekend, with the Union County Tournament also playing its semifinals.
The Somerset County Tournament quarterfinals, which are slated for Saturday, mark the start of things for the Top 4 seeds. Games will be played at the higher-seeded team.
No. 1 Hillsborough plays host to No. 9 Franklin at 3 p.m., while No. 2 Watchung Hills faces No. 7 Bound Brook, No. 3 Bridgewater-Raritan battles Immaculata, and No. 5 Bernards visits No. 4 Montgomery, all at 2:30 p.m.
Follow @SimeonPincus on Twitter and/or the Inner Circle on Facebook for live updates from the Montgomery-Bernards tilt.
The SCT semifinals are scheduled for next Saturday, with the final to be held Sunday night, May 17 at Nap Torpey Field.
The Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament quarterfinals are also Saturday, also at the home school, as No. 1A North Hunterdon plays host to No. 4B Lenape Valley, No. 3A Voorhees visits No. 2B Kittatinny, No. 2A Hunterdon Central welcomes No. 3B Hopatcong, and No. 1B Pope John XXIII plays No. 5B High Point.
The HWST semifinals will be played next Saturday, with the final Saturday night, May 16 at Diamond Nation.
The Union County Tournament, which played its quarterfinals Friday night, reaches the semifinals Saturday with two games at Flanagan Fields in Linden.
The UCT semis feature No. 1 A.L. Johnson or No. 8 Brearley vs. No. 2 Westfield or No. 5 Cranford, while the winner of No. 2 Governor Livingston and No. 7 Scotch Plains-Fanwood face either No. 3 Rahway or No. 6 Elizabeth.
The final is slated for next Saturday, May 9, at Kean University.
Prep B seeds released
The 2015 Prep B High School Softball Tournament seeds were released Friday and defending champion Wardlaw-Hartridge has earned the top spot. Gill St. Bernard’s, which went to last year’s final, received the No. 3 seed.
The seven-team tournament begins Thursday with quarterfinal games. The semifinals will be held May 12, and the final May 14 at Diamond Nation.
Here are the seeds and first-round matchups:
5-Montclair Kimberly at 4-Doane Academy
6-Princeton Day at 3-Gill St. Bernard’s
7-Rutgers Prep at 2-Morristown-Beard
Simeon Pincus can be reached at CourierSoftball@aol.com and on Twitter @SimeonPincus
For more softball coverage, check out the Inner Circle softball blog at http://blogs.MyCentralJersey.com/softball