PITTSGROVE – In addition to sidelining players for an entire season last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic took an opportunity for many hitters chasing a milestone in softball.
Hundred hits has always been one of the benchmarks for elite hitters.
Reaching the milestone of the century in a four-year school career is a great achievement.
Even more impressive is reaching the total success in three years.
The Schalick High School softball roster has one hitter, April Laury, with three digits in the hitting category and another hitter on the gate, Paige Coleman.
The two seniors battling in the top two spots in the roster are a big reason the Cougars plan to make a lot of noise when the South Jersey Group 1 tournament kicks off on Tuesday. Schalick ended his regular season Wednesday with a 10-0 win over Overbrook in five innings, taking the Cougars record to 13-3, which includes five straight wins and 12 in their last 13 games.
âWe’re ready to play playoff softball,â Rowan linked Laury said. âI think we are ready for the long haul. We went 8-0 in the (Tri-County Conference Diamond) division and now have high expectations to go far in the playoffs.
âWe’re really excited for the playoffs,â Coleman said. âWe’re really meeting as a team right now. You can really feel the confidence that we are playing with right now.
Laury was the table setter for a Cougar roster, who averaged 12 points per game and ranks among the top production teams in the tri-county conference.
âShe’s just an intense player – intense with every play and takes no play,â Schalick head coach Eric Burger said of her first hitter.
Laury certainly made life miserable for opposing pitchers.
After registering 23 hits in the freshman, she hit .511 with 45 hits the following spring. This season, she’s beating .583 with 35 hits, including her 100th of her career, last week.
âIt’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,â Laury said of the 100-hit mark. âMy travel coach (South Jersey Heat Gold Jim Woolam) set us 10 goals (before I entered high school) and that was one of them.â
Coleman also thought of the brand of the century. The senior needs eight more to reach the milestone after Tuesday’s 3-for-3 performance, which included a home run and a triple.
âI think about it every day,â she says. âI’m just trying to hit the ball, keep my swing level and keep taking hits.â
Coleman already has a special notch on his resume, posting his 200th career retirement as a pitcher. It’s a feat she didn’t expect to rack up after being embittered throwing in after her second season.
âI was the only pitcher for a long time and got a little fed up with it,â said Coleman, who would love to pitch and play the outfield to the next level. âI took a little while before throwing, but I came back and found my love for it.
âI had a lot of runs in my first two seasons (250) and I think (not having a season last year) gave me a break that brought me back to the nitty-gritty.
Coleman has won seven of his eight decisions, including Tuesday’s five-stroke shutout against Overbrook. She is still undecided about which university she will attend, but plans to study physiotherapy.
âHis leadership is his greatest strength,â Burger said of the team ace. “She just isn’t in the circle and she’s a person the team rallies around.”
Schalick enjoyed a seamless transition under Burger, which took over the program this spring after guiding Vineland to the State Group 4 final in 2018.
âWe’re not done yet,â Burger said. “This team has yet to reach its peak.”
Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, the Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story to tell, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or by email [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.