2012-04-11 / Sports

Eagles off to flying start on the softball diamond

Edison hosting East Brunswick in key GMC game on April 12
BY JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

With the return of one of the top pitchers in the state, Valerie Cassell, and hard-hitting shortstop Tracey Balinskas, Edison High School softball coach Jennifer Teffenhart realizes her team could become complacent. She needn’t be concerned.

The Eagles have had little time to feel content, despite an impressive 4-0 start, including a 2-0 season-opening victory against Staten Island power St. Joseph by the Sea. On April 10 Edison traveled to Hunterdon Central, and on April 12 Edison will host East Brunswick (3-1), a game that may prove pivotal in determining the Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division crown.

Edison and East Brunswick were favorites to win the GMC Tournament last year, only they were upset in the preliminary. It remains to be seen what happens this spring, but area fans get to watch Cassell and EBHS’s Beth AnnHyland dual each other at least twice (the Eagles visit EBHS on May 8).

The Eagles’ hurler has been predictably dominant in her four victories, including two against Red Division opponents South Brunswick and Old Bridge. The only blemish has been four runs she yielded to Old Bridge. Otherwise, the College of Charlestonbound Cassell looks like the same pitcher whowent 21-5 with a 0.66 ERAand stuck out 233 batters in 171 innings.

Despite the senior’s lofty statistics, Teffenhart insists that Edison is emphasizing a team, family-type approach. “No one player is better than the other,” she says, “and in order to win, we must be able tomake sacrifices in order to accomplish what’s best for the team. By that I mean we need to be prepared to do whatever is necessary, even if it doesn’t mean winning. The idea is to continually improve.”

To that extent, Teffenhart does not start the same lineup each game, but strategizes based on opponents’ pitchers. Balinskas has been nothing short of spectacular this spring. The senior has lashed out five hits in 10 at-bats in Edison’s four victories and has played outstanding defense. Returning first baseman Brianna Redman has also looked strong on defense.

Others currently getting playing time are juniors Kira Formica (catcher) and Kerry Flynn (centerfield) and sophomores Mackenzie Valeriano (third), Kelsey Reilly (second), Amanda Redman (outfield and pitcher), and freshman Amanda Mercuro (outfield).

“We lost five starters [Edison was 23-5 in 2011],” said Teffenhart, “but we had prepared for this by giving a lot of girls an opportunity to play. Now it’s their turn, and I know they’re excited.”

Teffenhart is in her fifth season as head coach but has been involved with the softball program for 12 years. The Edison graduate played softball at LaSalle and teaches AP government and civics and justice for the high school.

In addition to their regular GMC schedule, the Eagles will prep for the tournaments with a visit to Red Bank Catholic on May 12 and will host Bloomfield, on May 14.

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