PISCATAWAY – A long lineage of successful ace pitchers lie in the East Brunswick High School softball program and junior Kaleigh Dwyer appears to be next in line.
Dwyer fired a four-hit shutout and senior left fielder Lauren Assennata hit a timely two-out two-run double in the top of the first inning as the Bears, ranked No. 1 in the Home News Tribune Preseason Top 10 poll, went on to blank No. 4 Piscataway 4-0 on Friday afternoon in a Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division affair.
“I’m very proud of Kaleigh because she’s worked very hard to get here,” East Brunswick 17th-year coach Kevin Brady said. “A couple months ago she’s coming back from a very serious leg injury. She doesn’t complain. She just goes out there and does her best every single day.”
Dwyer struck out 10 and walked three as she got in a couple tricky jams — a bases loaded with two outs hurdle in the second and runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, but successfully worked out of them both times with strikeouts.
EB pitcher Kaleigh Dwyer gets a big two-out bases loaded strikeout to end the bottom of the 2. EB 2 Pway 0 pic.twitter.com/fttrfF0NyY— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 10, 2015
“At one point I was having a little struggle finding my strike zone, but I just got back in the zone, went back at it, and just didn’t think about really anyone else that was there.”
Dwyer again escapes a jam to end the fourth after having runners on second and third with one out. EB 2 Pway 0 pic.twitter.com/evTvt6YArs— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 10, 2015
She’s stepped into the role as the team’s ace with ease, improving her overall record to 3-1 and filling the shoes of Assennata, who had been one of the GMC’s top pitchers each of the past two seasons but has been playing left field this season.
“I’ve been very fortunate at East Brunswick to have a long line of pitchers, and the one thing we always say when somebody graduates is ‘You don’t have to be the next Dara Gadzialak or the next Marissa Busch. You just have to be the best you,’ ” Brady said. “And the strange thing is Kaleigh’s going to do that this year with Lauren actually out there in the field, helping her with the bat, helping her with experience. So Kaleigh just needs to be the best Kaleigh and that’s a pretty darn good pitcher.”
“I feel like I’ve kind of learned a lot from Lauren because she was so great and she was able to do such great things and I kind of was like I wanted to be like her,’ Dwyer said.
It was Assennata’s two-run double in the first that gave East Brunswick (5-1) an early 2-0 lead, with one of those runs being unearned, as that score held for the duration of the game until the Bears scored two unearned runs with two outs in the top of the seventh on an error.
Lauren Assennata two-run double down the left field line puts EB ahead 2-0 top 1 pic.twitter.com/tp94Hyx7VG— Mike Becker (@realmikebecker) April 10, 2015
“I’m the left fielder now and Kaleigh’s the pitcher,” Assennata said. “We have a lot of other pitchers. We have a strong staff and I think we’re going to do well.”
Piscataway (3-1) has plenty of youth on the field this season — outside of senior second baseman Michelle Gebhardt, the rest of its infield is composed of freshmen.
“Our big thing is with our freshmen is we tell them they’re not freshmen, they’re varsity players, so it’s a matter of getting that mentality into them,” Piscataway coach Chuck Poole Jr. said. “I was pleased with them, early in the season can be tough. It hurt us a little bit today, but I think they’re going to come along.”
Gebhardt went 2-for-3, collecting two of the Chiefs’ four hits, while junior Sarah Ogilvie was tagged four the loss as she allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, on four hits while striking out seven and walking five.
Staff writer Mike Becker: email@example.com