Pirates rebound for win behind Kelman

Pitcher also hits for South softball

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   It didn’t take West Windsor-Plainsboro South’s softball team long to put its first loss of the year behind it.
   Alyssa Kelman was as brilliant as Thursday’s sun on the mound and at the plate to get the Pirates back on track in an 8-1 win over Hightstown.
   ”Definitely we needed this to boost us,” said the junior, who struck out 10 and delivered four runs with a 3-for-4 day. “This game definitely helps us out. Robbinsville definitely brought us down, but we came back knowing we had to win this one. I think we just have to focus more and take this more seriously and I think we’ll be good.”
   WW-P South beat Nottingham, 10-5, on Friday behind Liz Chudzik, who picked up the win and had a double and three RBIs as the Pirates improved to 3-1. Their lone loss came to Robbinsville last Monday. After taking a 2-1 lead, South errors opened the door to a four-run Robbinsville sixth inning. WW-P South got back on track against Hightstown.
   ”I feel good,” said Pirates head coach Nicky Arias, whose team hosts Hopewell today. “Hopefully we’ll pull out another good win and build some more confidence and keep it going through the season.”
   Kelman again will play a big part in the Pirates’ chances, at the plate and in the circle, but at least in the field she doesn’t have the weight of the world on her. The Pirates have a second pitcher in Chudzik, who came over from WW-P North.
   ”I definitely love having someone that can back me up,” Kelman said, “or I can help her out with not having to pitch every game. There’s a lot of girls that came up, a lot of freshmen, that are stepping it up and they’re doing really well.”
   Added Arias: “I feel she’s very much more relaxed. Alyssa has a lot of confidence, and I think it helps knowing there’s another pitcher in the dugout that if something happens, if she gets in trouble, someone’s there to back her up. Whereas last year, she had everything on her shoulders. It was her or nothing. I think that really helps her out. And she’s being patient at bat which is helping us out.”
   Kelman sent down nine of the first 12 Hightstown hitters by strikeout, and helped provide all the run support she would need at the plate. Liz Huttner and Kelman singled and scored on Kat Philbin’s double in the first inning. Kelman broke the game open with a two-run home run in the third inning and added a two-run double in the sixth inning.
   ”She had a great game at the plate today,” Arias said. “She stayed very relaxed. She’s not being overly aggressive or anything or overanxious. She was patient and let the pitch that she wanted come to her and she capitalized on it.”
   Said Kelman: “I worked a lot over the summer with my travel team (the Ewing Edge) and definitely improved. Me and the other pitcher, Liz Chudzik, play with each other on that team.”
   Their work is paying off in the high school season. And Kelman feels the returning Pirates have plenty of help from their newcomers at the plate, and that should take some more weight off the defense and pitching.
   ”We definitely have a stronger hitting team this year,” Kelman said. “I think we should be good.”
   Arias is looking to bottle that type of hitting performance and uncork it for every game.
   ”It’s hard to expect it every game, but that’s what I pride them on,” Arias said. “I say, you need to be hitting every game. I expect them to play at the highest level. I tell them they have to go into every game, no matter who your opponent is, wanting to capitalize, wanting to get hits. That’s what should be happening every game.
   ”I have a young team,” she added. “I have four freshmen playing and a couple sophomores in key positions. Again, it’s staying awake and focused and being mentally tough. They’re going to see pitching they haven’t seen before, and situations that are a little harder. Basically it’s the focus we have to work on to stay tough in games.”
   Kelman is more excited about this season than either of the past two. The Pirates may be young, but there is a lot of potential for this season’s team. The goals are high.
   ”To make states and do well in the CVC,” Kelman said. “Just to have a good attitude. All the girls get along really well. Usually, that’s not the case, but it is this year.”
   And bouncing back from a disappointing loss was a good sign of the team’s continuity and its maturity. One loss didn’t keep them down for long.
   ”Definitely we needed that game right now to build our confidence,” Arias said. “We hit the ball well, we played well as a team, we communicated, did all the right things. That will really help us now for the rest of the season. It set the tone.
   ”Every game,” she added, “I hope we come out strong like that, come out hitting and scoring first. I keep telling the girls that it’s very important in softball to score first, set the tone of the game, show them that we’re here, we’re going to play hard. We did that today.”
   It was just the sort of game that the Pirates were looking for to erase quickly their first loss of the season.
   ”It definitely makes us realize we have a lot of talent on the team,” Kelman said. “We should do well this year.”