Carmine Ronga will be the first to tell you that Hoboken High School’s softball team has been to the NJSIAA state sectional title game in each of the last five seasons. The veteran coach of the Red Wing program is proud of that fact, proud that his team has been right in the thick of the post-season party year after year.
However, there was no denying that last year’s season ended with a sense of major disappointment, when the Red Wings fell to rival High Tech in both the HCIAA Seglio Division title game and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship.
Although the Red Wings suffered a huge loss with the graduation of three-time All-Area pitcher/slugger Raquel Roder (now playing at William Paterson University), Ronga was confident that he had a suitable replacement in junior Yaritza Santiago.
“Every year, when we have one pitcher, we’re always developing another pitcher,” Ronga said. “Yaritza took some pitching classes over the winter and worked with a pitching coach. It’s tough for someone to follow Natalie Lugo and Raquel Roder, but she’s definitely more than held her own. But we knew she was going to be the pitcher this year and we worked to build her confidence last year.”
And Ronga is already thinking ahead. He has freshman Jayla Vega in the wings, waiting for her turn to become the Red Wings’ main hurler.
“Pitching is the whole enchilada in softball,” Ronga said. “We’re always looking to build experience in our pitching.”
Santiago has done a fine job thus far, winning 10 of her first 11 decisions, with the lone loss coming at the hands of rival High Tech on April 9.
“But I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Ronga said. “I think we’re exactly where I thought we would be. We’re always competitive, especially in our conference games.”
Another reason why the Red Wings are so tough is senior catcher Paige Peguero, who has earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors in each of the last two years.
“In my opinion, she’s the best catcher in Hudson County,” Ronga said. “She is a four-year starter and she’s improved a lot in her defense. She’s become a much better defensive catcher and controls the game for us.”
Seniors Meagan Fitzgerald and Stephanie Ponzoni rotate at first base, while sophomore Amanda Spano is the second baseman. Junior Ashley Barron returns at shortstop, with senior Melba Medina returning at third.
In the outfield, Ronga uses a number of young ladies, including seniors Stephanie Tuzzo and Tatiana Crespo and sophomore Renee Zabaleta. Freshman Desiree Rivera and senior Ashley Classen share the right field duties.
“We move a lot of kids around in the outfield,” Ronga said. “We have seven seniors who have four years of experience with the varsity, so they know what we expect of them. This is a veteran team and it continues to make progress at a nice pace. I like the way the younger players are coming around as well. They’re mixing in well. So we’re right there.”
The 10-1 record is definitely proof that the Red Wings are for real…
The so-called NFL Draft pundits and experts have been calling Bayonne’s Kenny Britt a bad seed and a “diva” in the days prior to this year’s draft, but there’s no sense of prima donna in the former Bayonne High and Rutgers University standout receiver. Yet, as these so-called experts continue to bad mouth Britt, his stock in this weekend’s draft has dropped. He’s gone from a sure-fire first-round selection to a second round pick.
If Britt is selected in the first round, he would become the first Hudson County product taken in the opening round of the NFL Draft since the New York Giants selected Jersey City native Lou Cordileone out of Clemson in the first round of the 1960 draft.
Sure enough, the area has seen many products get to hear their name selected on draft day, but none of Hudson’s finest grid greats have ever been in the first round. The closest was North Bergen’s Mark D’Onofrio, who was taken in the second round by the Green Bay Packers (34th overall) in the 1992 Draft.
D’Onofrio, now the assistant head coach at Temple University, was a standout at Penn State in his college days.
However, shame on the idiots who have been labeling Britt as being a bad kid. There’s nothing further from the truth. He’s always been a respectful, hard-working, and dedicated kid who is very close to his family and friends. You can’t even say that these so-called experts are reading Britt’s book by the cover, because he doesn’t even come across as being a bad seed. It doesn’t make sense…
Congrats to the powers-that-be in the township of Weehawken for unveiling the spanking new improvements to Weehawken Stadium, installing a FieldTurf surface, and fittingly renaming the field as the Louis A. Ferullo Memorial Field, in honor of the long-time Weehawken Recreation coach and township councilman.
Incredibly, it now gives Weehawken, one of the smallest municipalities in Hudson County, two state-of-the-art artificial turf athletic facilities, joining the majestic field opened on the Hudson River waterfront last year. The refurbished Weehawken Stadium is situated at the foot of the Lincoln Tunnel helix, so millions of commuters will get to see the field on a daily basis.
It was also a great move to remember Ferullo, who totally dedicated his life to the betterment of Weehawken’s youth….
High Tech’s standout softball slugger Justine Mateo has declared her intentions to attend Dominican College in the fall and will shortly sign a scholarship letter with the school. Mateo is well on her way to her fourth straight All-Area selection from the Hudson Reporter…
The St. Peter’s College athletic family lost another fixture last week, when Steve Krychkowski passed away after a long illness. The Jersey City native was just 55 years old.
My good friend Steve was a fixture at St. Peter’s College events for more than 30 years. He was the highly respected clock operator for men’s and women’s basketball games as well at football games, when the school had a football team. He was also a budding athletic trainer during his truly devoted and dedicated days at Harvard on the Boulevard.
Krychkowski also served on the SPC Athletic Hall of Fame committee, an organization of which he was a proud member. He never missed a Hall of Fame meeting and took his association with the SPC Hall of Fame very seriously.
No one loved SPC athletics more than Steve Krychkowski. When I was the Sports Information Director at the school, I never had to worry about Steve being there, because he practically lived at Yanitelli Center. He was always there, a permanent fixture.
Steve was also a respected high school and college basketball official, eventually working both the Ivy League and Northeast Conference in women’s basketball.
When he suffered a stroke a few years ago, Steve trudged on and worked for the ECAC as a talent evaluator of basketball officials. It was no coincidence that several of his officiating comrades were in attendance at his wake Sunday night.
I’ll always remember his bright smile, his gigantic mitt of a hand that offered a truly warm handshake, his loyalty to his friends and family and his undying dedication to his alma mater, St. Peter’s College.
My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his wonderful wife, Maureen, and their two sons, Thomas and Tyler, both of whom emerged as soccer standouts at North Arlington. Tom is now on the soccer team at New Jersey City University. Tyler enjoyed a breakout freshman campaign with the North Arlington varsity last fall.
If anyone wants to remember Steve, they can make a contribution in his memory to the North Arlington High School Athletic Fund. It would be a fitting tribute to a truly great man who is gone way too soon. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.