Not just every game but every practice so far this spring has been used as a learning experience for the Kittatinny Regional High School softball program as the Cougars attempt to build momentum to reach their best at the conclusion of the season.
On April 11, the team earned its first regular-season victory when it topped North Warren, 5-3.
Kittatinny is scheduled to host Mendham on Monday, May 1.
“The Lady Cougars have worked hard this pre-season and are very excited for the (regular) season,’’ head coach Heather Mate said. “Our training included both the physical skills and the mental skills needed to compete in games and be a good teammate. In our training, we focused on the fundamentals of the game as well as how to be a great teammate through positivity, resilience and building a family culture.
The team will host a memorial tournament Sunday, April 29 in honor of Darren Manser.
“He was a father, husband, son, uncle, coach and dear friend that we lost unexpectedly last June,” Mate said.
Baseball and softball team from Kittatinny, Wallkill Valley, High Point and Newton high schools will participate, with games starting at 9:30 a.m. at Kittatinny.
“We will also be playing in our annual charity game this season for pediatric cancer,” she said. “Our charity game (Lace Up 4 Cancer) is on a date to be determined. We will be lacing up our cleats with our gold laces to support the cause.’’
Key returning student athletes to the varsity team include seniors Gwen Lightcap (pitcher), Gina Kropp (second base and outfield), Hailey Foster (third base and first base) and Gia Checo-Gonzalez (right field and third base) and sophomore Kayleigh Mastroeni (short stop).
Among the promising newcomers are senior Amber Seames (second base and utility player) and sophomores Tasha Hornung (catcher), Ria Craig-Aguilar (center field), Kinya Kajogo (right field) and Chelsea Bakker (left field).
“We are returning five varsity starters to our line-up,’’ Mate said. “This season we will be relying on our experienced core players (Lightcap, Checo-Gonzalez, Kropp, Foster and Mastroeni) as well as our newcomers to work together both offensively and defensively to get the job done.
“As we approach each game, we will rely on the duo of senior pitcher Gwen Lightcap and sophomore catcher Natasha Hornung as well as our core defensive players as they work together to play 21 outs/7 innings. In the end, it comes down to doing the little things defensively and being consistent at the plate for the Lady Cougars.’’
This season we will be relying on our experienced core players as well as our newcomers to work together both offensively and defensively to get the job done.” - Heather Mate, head softball coach, Kittatinny Regional High School