Lombardi a key part of Hawks’ bright softball future



 J.P. Stevens High School first baseman Brianna Zederbaum, left, tries to tag out Woodbridge High School’s Emily Henry during the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament first-round game May 20 at J.P. Stevens in Edison. The Eagles advanced with a 5-3 victory.  MATT DENTON J.P. Stevens High School first baseman Brianna Zederbaum, left, tries to tag out Woodbridge High School’s Emily Henry during the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament first-round game May 20 at J.P. Stevens in Edison. The Eagles advanced with a 5-3 victory. MATT DENTON Whatever the J.P. Stevens High School softball team accomplishes the rest of this spring, the future is bright — primarily because of its pitcher.

Freshman Ashley Lombardi has been, in the words of head coach Krystle Petty, the rock that has propelled the Hawks to a Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division championship and a 16-6 overall record.

The No. 3-seed Hawks suffered a 3-1 loss in the GMC Tournament quarterfinals May 21 to Sayreville War Memorial High School. However, the No. 1-seed Hawks were still alive in the NJSIAA North Jersey II Group IV sectional and were to meet No. 4-seed Bridgewater-Raritan High School in the semifinals May 26.

“Ashley has been so impressive on the mound and has proven to be an exceptional athlete,” Petty said. “It’s obvious how much she loves the game and loves to compete. Ashley has been so impressive with her composure considering this is her first year.”

Petty spoke about how Lombardi has had an impact on the team in multiple ways.

“I observed Ashley’s mechanics and asked her to make an adjustment, and she did it right away,” Petty said. “Ashley is so coachable — always upbeat and a great teammate. Even as a freshman, she picks up her teammates and understands the game inside and out.”

When Lombardi is on the mound, her entire focus is on getting the batter out.

“She already knows how to set up a hitter and execute her pitches,” Petty said. “I’m very excited to watch Ashley’s development as a member of our team moving ahead.”

Lombardi has not been the only contributor to J.P. Stevens’ outstanding season. Freshman right fielder Amanda Leary (.311 average, 19 hits) has been another key newcomer.

Sophomore Brianna Zederbaum (.339 average, 21 hits) plays first base after handling multiple positions last year. Junior Kayla Smith (.306 average, 19 hits) is now in center field after playing multiple infield positions, and Petty said she’s developed into one the best outfielders in the conference.

Senior Rebecca DiSerio has been reliable behind the plate and leads the Hawks in hitting with a .405 average, 30 hits and 21 runs batted in. Four-year starter Amanda Lombardi, a senior, plays third base and has been a valuable contributor. Another starter is junior lefty slapper Gabby Young (.357 average, 25 hits), who plays second base and has turned into a valuable leader.

“Gabby leads vocally and by example and plays a phenomenal second base,” Petty said. “She used to be a righty hitter but became a switch hitter and [has] become a lefty slapper.” The other key starters are sophomore shortstop and cleanup hitter Julie Siecinski (.351 average, 26 hits), who is a vacuum at her position, and junior left fielder Kelsey Shalonis, who has become an outstanding outfielder with speed and a strong arm.

The remainder of J.P. Stevens’ roster includes junior Faith Oster, Chloe Ling, Brianna Miller, Kelsey Whiteford and Alyssa Mido.

In other area softball action, No. 7-seed Metuchen High School (14-12) saw its season conclude May 20 when it lost, 7-0, to No. 2-seed Florence Township Memorial High School in Central Jersey Group I action, and No. 6-seed Bishop George Ahr High School (17-6) met No. 3-seed Donovan Catholic May 26 in South Jersey Non- Public A.

The Bulldogs were eliminated by Monroe Township High School, and the Trojans lost to Old Bridge High School, 12-7, in the GMC Tournament.

Boys volleyball

In state boys volleyball tournament action, No. 2-seed St. Joseph High School of Metuchen (30-10) advanced to the Central Jersey semifinals May 27, when it will host No. 3-seed Old Bridge. If the Falcons survive, they will meet the winner of the match between top-seed Bridgewater-Raritan High School and No. 4-seed East Brunswick High School in the May 29.


In area baseball, Edison High School (13-16) is playing the best it has all season now that the state tournament is underway. The No. 9-seed Eagles eliminated crosstown rival J.P. Stevens, 6-4 (No. 8- seed), in North Jersey II Group IV and dismantled No. 16-seed Westfield High School, 5-1, May 22. Edison met No. 5- seed Millburn High School May 26 in the sectional semifinals.

Edison was eliminated by St. Joseph in the GMC Tournament, 3-0.

“The [victory] over Stevens has been our most satisfying win for a couple of reasons,” Edison head coach Vinnie Abene said. “We beat a rival in a key game after relinquishing a 3-0 lead. However, we took the lead back, and that demonstrated a lot of character.”

A veteran coach, Abene was asked about how much the game has changed since he began coaching.

“Honestly, not a lot has changed,” he said. “In the end, you have to be sure your team is fundamentally sound and mentally ready for anything.

“Of course, this being high school baseball, things change, but it’s how you respond that demonstrates a team’s character.”

Abene admitted the restrictions on the use of bats have changed the game somewhat.

“Actually, that’s had more of an impact than I [originally] thought,” he said. “More coaches have gone to emphasizing the running game, which is fine by me.”

The other change is the power hitters in the lineup.

“Ten years ago, five players in your lineup could hit a homer,” Abene said. “That’s not happening now.”

In other area baseball tournament action, top-seed St. Joe’s (18-9) was host to No. 9- seed Immaculata High School May 26, and No. 10-seed Bishop Ahr (16-9) was eliminated by No. 7-seed Notre Dame High School, 15-0, in South Jersey Non-Public A. In Central Jersey Group I, No. 5-seed Metuchen lost, 4-2, to No. 4-seed South River High School to end with a 10-13 mark.