Crystal Vargas already had a distinction in Hudson County sports history. During her days at Marist High School, Vargas became the first female to ever win a game as a pitcher in a boys’ varsity baseball game.
Vargas then went on to have brilliant softball career at Rutgers University, then became an assistant softball coach at New Jersey City University.
A teacher of U.S. history at Marist, Vargas took over the softball program at her alma mater two years ago. It was a program that wasn’t exactly successful before she took over, winning just two games and losing 33 in the two years prior to her arrival.
“Obviously, no one was coming here for softball,” Vargas said. “I just tried to do the best I could with the cards that were dealt to me. I knew that they weren’t successful, but I accepted that challenge. In fact, I embraced it.”
It was a bit of a change after coaching college softball for five years.
“We had to go back to fundamentals,” Vargas said. “We had to spend a lot of time on just learning how to throw and catch. We literally had to go back to clinic-style basics. But I knew that was going to be the situation.”
In her first season a year ago, Vargas led her team to a 7-12 record.
“Getting seven wins, I was okay with it,” Vargas said. “I actually wasn’t expecting it.”
When the 2014 season began, Vargas made sure she had enough players.
“I kept a large team,” Vargas said. “I had 18 players. I was a little nervous that I might have taken on too many. We have some players at the beginners’ stage and others who are more advanced. I didn’t know if we would gel.”
But something magical has taken place. The Royal Knights simply clicked on the softball diamond.
“The ones that don’t play much have been positive and supportive,” Vargas said. “They’re helping us win. There’s such a positive vibe right now and everyone is contributing to the winning.”
How much winning? Well, Marist may be the biggest surprise in a surprising softball season, posting a 9-1 record thus far.
“I knew we would win games, but I never expected 9-1,” Vargas said. “I think after we beat Memorial to get to 5-0, that’s when I thought we could be pretty good. I think that was the turning point. Teams that beat us last year, we’re beating this year. I realized that we could open up some eyes and have the opportunity to compete. It’s just been awesome.”
Vargas said that her team now believes they can win.
“They’re kind of buying into the mindset that we can win on any given day,” Vargas said. “The underdog can win. We can make things happen. You never know.”
Senior Samantha Roman has been the Royal Knights’ top pitcher.
“When she hits her spots, she’ll win,” Vargas said. “She can be a dominant pitcher. She’s totally different than what she was. She made the effort in the winter to get better and she loves the challenge of being out there.”
Senior Angela Lenzo is the team’s catcher.
“She was our third baseman and we moved her to catcher this year,” Vargas said. “She’s just a good athlete. I knew she could handle it.”
Freshman Britney Murchinson is the first baseman.
“She’s leading us in practically every offensive category,” Vargas said of Murchinson, who had three hits and two RBI in a recent win over Dickinson.
Freshman Emily Anthony is the second baseman who has an excellent glove and good speed on the bases.
Another freshman, Rose Delbert, is the shortstop.
“She’s really adapted well,” Vargas said. “She’s a basketball player along with Emily. The two play well together and I expect even bigger things in the future.”
Angelica Rivero, a senior, is the third baseman.
“She’s like our quiet leader,” Vargas said.
Sophomore Esmeralda Montas is the left fielder.
“She came to us not being able to catch a fly ball and now she catches everything,” Vargas said. “She put the time in to get better.”
Junior Arielle Aure is the centerfielder, with freshman Halie Flores and junior Zyneira Williams sharing right field. Senior Veruska Vargas (no relation to the coach) is the designated hitter.
Needless to say, it’s been a fun spring for the Marist softball program.
“It’s been awesome,” Vargas said. “The kids are happy and that’s all that matters. They want to win and that hasn’t been a common thing here.”
While Vargas’ team continues to win, her side career of being a percussionist has blossomed. She recently played the congas with former Yankee great Bernie Williams and legendary singer/songwriter Paul Simon. She is featured on Rihanna’s video “What’s My Name?” She has a website, www.crystalpercussion.com.
“My night gigs are very different from coaching and teaching,” Vargas laughed. “I don’t get any days off. But I’ll take it all right now.”
As well she should…
While Union Hill High School might be a thing of the past, the school’s Hall of Fame organization lives on. The annual dinner will take place May 14 at the Fiesta in Wood-Ridge.
Honorees this year include former Hiller great football player Luis Fraga, former standout soccer player Javier Romero and former great basketball player Melissa Beyruti, who went on to have an All-American career at Kean.
Others getting inducted are Dr. Guy Orangio from the Class of 1969 and teacher Alice Failla Aiello.
Tickets are $65 and can be purchased by sending a check, made out to the Union Hill Alumni Association, at P.O. Box 249, Union City, NJ 07087…
The Hudson County Tournament seeds were determined Wednesday and there were some surprises at the top.
First, Marist earned the top seed in baseball, mainly because the Royal Knights defeated No. 2 seed St. Peter’s Prep the first game of the season. So the Marauders are ranked among the top five teams in the state, but No. 2 seed in the county tourney…
In softball, St. Dominic Academy earned the top seed over Kearny, with North Bergen No. 3. Both tourneys get underway this weekend with preliminary round games…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Baseball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (14-2-1). 2. Marist (11-5). 3. Union City (10-4). 4. Hudson Catholic (9-5). 5. Bayonne (8-6-1)…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Softball Top Five: 1. St. Dominic Academy (10-5). 2. North Bergen (8-6). 3. Hudson Catholic (9-2). 4. Secaucus (8-5). 5. Hoboken (8-5)…- Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.