HAMILTON: Nottingham players ready for the diamond

The Nottingham baseball team has a road game against Hunterdon Central on Saturday, while the softball squad will travel to face off against Bordentown Regional.

by Josh Lashley, Special Writer
HAMILTON — After all of the snow shoveling and plowing this winter, it just feels good knowing that the spring sports season has finally arrived.
   To that end, the Nottingham High School softball and baseball programs have been working diligently over the past several weeks to ensure their finest effort on the field during the regular season, and hopefully beyond.
   The Northstars softball team was 19-8 overall last season and advanced to the championship round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III playoffs before losing to top seeded Wall Township by a single run.
   Key returning players for head coach Danielle Wilson include Alyssa James, senior, third base; Jamie Terry, senior, pitcher/outfield; Liz Clifford, senior, catcher; Brittany Kelly, junior, outfield/catcher; and Kristin Hallam, sophomore, pitcher/short stop.
   Newcomers hoping to positively impact the varsity lineup include junior infielder Courtney Schwarz and freshman Alexis Davidson, who pitches and plays first base.
   ”I’m excited for this year,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to get better every day and see where that takes us at the end of the season. My assistant coaches are great, and I’m really lucky to have them with our program.”
   The softball team’s baseball counterparts are similarly hopeful for a successful 2014 campaign.
   ”Our goals are to improve on last year’s record, we would also like to make some noise in the County and (NJSIAA) State tournaments,” said head coach Michael Braender, who is in his third year at the helm. “We lost in the first round of states to the number one seed and lost in the second round of the Mercer County Tournament (last year).
   ”We would like to make a solid push toward the end of the season and make a better effort in these tournaments,” he added.
   Last year, the Northstars earned five victories.
   Key returning players aiming to help the Northstars reach their goals this year include senior RHP and outfielder Franco Esposito, senior infielder Bryan Butchon, senior RHP and outfielder Rich Knappenberger and junior outfielder Eric Struble.
   Newcomers to the varsity roster include junior RHP and infielder RJ Komet, sophomore RHP and infielder Joe Garey and sophomore outfielder Sean McGeehan.
   ”Franco and Bryan have been starting on Varsity since they were sophomores,” he said. “They have a ton of on field experience in the last three years. We are looking for them to lead at practice and on the field because of their experience. Bryan will be making the move from second base to short stop this year and looks to be handling it in stride. Franco will continue to be the ace on the mound and also be a key asset in our lineup with the bat.
   ”With a solid mix of returners and some new faces, we hope to be contenders in the conference. With a cross-town rival Hamilton West in the Division it makes for two huge games in our season. We hope that we can be more consistent throughout the year. We lost many close games late in the game and hope that we can be on the winning side of those losses from last year,” he added.
   The Nottingham baseball team has a road game against Hunterdon Central on Saturday, while the softball squad will travel to face off against Bordentown Regional.