Cranbury School teams enjoy success

Improving softball team wins first; track team setting records

By: Rich Fisher
   Don’t look now, but the Cranbury School softball team is starting to look, well, pretty darn good.
   The Vikings claimed their first victory of the season with a 15-4 decision over Hun last Friday. Although two losses this week dropped Cranbury’s record to 1-8, the softball team has shown marked improvement over the early part of the season.
   Cranbury dropped a 6-5 contest to Metuchen on Monday and an 11-8 decision to Crossroads (South Brunswick) on Tuesday. The Vikings were in both games to the end, as opposed to the blowouts they suffered in April.
   "They can only take this as a positive," coach Leigh Zink said. "Each game the errors are less, each game they are playing better and thinking more. They’re getting the hang of the thinking part of the game.
   "We had some really smart base running (against Crossroads). I didn’t have to tell them what to do. They knew what to do without me yelling at them. They’re a lot more aggressive in their base running. They used to be a lot more hesitant."
   One reason could be they are getting more practice at getting on base, as the hitting seems to be coming around.
   "They’re a little more confident at the plate and some girls are getting hits they weren’t getting early in season," Zink said. "Even though we lost these last two games, they were very good games and the girls were thrilled with them. They can only take good things out of it."
   In the victory over Hun, Cranbury exploded for 10 runs in the first inning. Amy Jacobi, Amanda Santamaria, Danielle Belly and Sue Westock all went 3-for-3. Ellie Van der Veken, Erin Hoerner and winning pitcher Dylan Zink each drove in runs. Zink fired a two-hitter and struck out 13.
   "They were so excited after the win," Leigh Zink said. "I think with them finally getting the bat on the ball and getting the chance to run the bases, it helped their confidence tremendously."
   In the loss to Metuchen, Santamaria went 4-for-4, Jacobi and Zink tripled, Hoerner was 2-for-2 and Van der Veken had a hit. Zink continued her stellar pitching, as she struck out 12 to give her over 100 for the season.
   In the field, the Vikings were hurt by errors, although strong gloves were shown by Van der Veken in the outfield and Westock at catcher.
   "Those two made some nice defensive plays," Zink said. "We just came up a little short. We had one inning where we left the bases loaded and another inning where we left two people on base, so we had our chances."
   In the loss to Crossroads, Belly had a double, Jacobi and Van der Veken each went 1-for-3, Bridgette Smith "had a great game" according to the coach, with a single, double and great defensive play at first base.
   But the biggest bat once again belonged to Santamaria, who went 3-for-3. In case you’ve lost track, the 7th-grader is 10-for-10 in the last three games.
   "She’s batting, like, a million," Zink said with a laugh. "She never played softball before this year, never even played rec ball. She’s got a good eye and she’s fast, she can beat out a bunt. She’ll hit a dribbler to the shortstop but she runs so fast she beats the throw."
   The Vikings host Pond Road on Monday and Allentown on Wednesday before visiting Millstone Thursday. There is also hope of re-scheduling an Apr. 25 rainout against Metuchen.
   "With their change of attitude and with more confidence, I think they’ll win these games, I really do," Zink said. "They’ve got the confidence where they know they can do it."
   The Vikings have been burning up the track this year, as the girls have an 8-2 record while the boys are 7-3.
   "We have a lot of kids, we have two buses going to the meets where in the past we had just one," coach Jay Gilligan said. "We’re holding it together. The kids aren’t doing too poorly considering they only have grass to practice on instead of a track."
   There have been four school records set and according to Gilligan, several sixth-graders are on the heels of a few more.
   "Tommy Hellstern is close to the long jump record and Olivia Johnston is close to breaking the 800 record," Gilligan said. "The future looks pretty good with those kids."
   As for records that have been set, John Merrill long jumped 17 feet, 3 inches, breaking Taron Conover’s 15-year-old record of 17-2. Hellstern is right behind with a jump of 17-1½
   Emily Buckley ran a 2:49 in the 800, breaking Caitlin Denehy’s 1997 record of 2:52, and Jillian Calichio high jumped 4-10 to top Meredith Talby’s 1997 mark of 4-6. The boys 4×100 relay team of Jon Hong, Merrill, Joe Fisher and DaQuane Hester have also set a new record of 52.2. The old record was unavailable.
   Cranbury has also been getting strong showings from its shot putters, including Chris Wittman, Adam Lawrence, Justin Hulick, Jackie Young, Katrina Lennon, Stephanie Grubb and Katie Lindberg.
   In the distances, Devin White, Kyle DeBlois, Luke and Rebecca Brunskill, and Calichio have all been faring well. Strong sprinting performances have come from Suzanne Hanson, Kim DeBlois, Marcus French, Hester, Chris Bleach and Jon Hong, while Morgan Kindberg has done well in middle distances.
   The surprising hardballers continue to look good, going 2-0-1 over the past week to raise their record to 5-2-1.
   "They’re doing much better than I thought in every aspect," coach Frank Silva said. "People are picking it up with the bat, the defense is making the plays now."
   The Vikings also have a reliable No. 2 pitcher behind ace Mario Fiorentini. Dan Mawn pitched five strong innings last Wednesday in an 8-2 win over New Egypt.
   "It was a stellar performance," Silva said. "His control was great, he threw nothing but strikes. He’s been a very nice surprise this year. He’s my number two guy behind Mario."
   Fiorentini and Frank Giacalone each went 2-for-2 with two RBI against New Egypt, while Jon Petrucelli was 2-for-2.
   The Vikings defeated Princeton Day School, 13-6, on Monday. Fiorentini led the offensive outburst with two doubles and five RBI, while Petrucelli was 3-for-3 with a double and four RBI. Colin Sarafin, Joe D’Eramo and Ryan Gordy each drove in a run. Fiorentini, Petrucelli and Tyler DiStasio combined on the pitching.
   On Tuesday, Cranbury played the Crossroads "B" team to a 3-3 tie in a game that was called after eight innings. Justin Faulkner, Clint O’Brien (double) and D’Eramo had two hits each, Fiorentini had a hit and an RBI, Petrucelli had a hit and Gordy had an RBI.
   "D’Eramo is lighting it up at the plate," Silva noted. "Dan Mawn and D’Eramo have been real pleasant surprises, and Tyler DiStasio is doing a great job of filling in wherever I need him."
   The Vikings return to action at Pond Road on Monday and travel to Millstone Wednesday and Hun Thursday.
   The Viking netters copped their second win of the season, 4-3, over Hun on Wednesday. The coaches decided on an all doubles format and, although Hun swept the first three spots, Cranbury won the final four. The winning squads were Rohit Gawande-Rahool Padrye, Rom Yamarthy-Arjun Vikuntam, Lauren Passannante-Sandeep Tummula, and Keith Vincellette-Jill Westerberg.
   "Overall, we’re finding our depth is helping us," said coach Lynn Totten, whose team is 2-6. "We’ve won a lot at doubles. We’ve been switching around the doubles partners because they like to play with different partners, and they are all able to play with each other and they work well together and get along really well."
   In last week’s matches, the Vikings got wins from Greg Bredariole-Andrew Paterson and Padrye-Tummula against Crossroads, Padrye-Tummula and Gawande-Yamarthy against Kreps, and Charlie Leson-Arjun Vikuntam and Vincellette-Passannante against West Windsor.
   "Rahool and Sandeep are undefeated when they’re playing together," Totten said. "And Bredariole and Paterson have really improved as a team."