SCOREBOARD

Snyder softball: Hudson County’s biggest surprise

The Snyder softball team is enjoying perhaps the best season in school history with a 9-2 record thus far. From left are head coach Lucy Rojas, Mackenzie Nolan, Kayla Rosario, Alyssa Hennessey, Ava Myskowski and assistant coach Modesta Rivera.
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The Snyder softball team is enjoying perhaps the best season in school history with a 9-2 record thus far. From left are head coach Lucy Rojas, Mackenzie Nolan, Kayla Rosario, Alyssa Hennessey, Ava Myskowski and assistant coach Modesta Rivera.

Don’t adjust your television sets. Don’t check the bifocals on the eye glasses. Don’t shake the newspaper to see if the print might just slide off the page. Don’t jump to the delete button on the computer to see if the right numbers just might magically pop up.

The number that appears with and is associated with the Snyder High School softball team just might be correct. You know, the one that has the Tigers with a 9-2 record. It’s no misprint. It’s the real deal, despite the fact that Snyder has not won as many as nine games in an entire season.

In fact, the Tigers won just seven games all season last year, posting a 7-12 record.

So needless to say, the Tigers having nine victories before they reach the halfway mark is truly remarkable. In fact, it’s downright shocking – but in a good way.

It might be a startling, eye-popping mark for most people, but there are some people who are not shocked by the record at all. One of those non-shocked people is named Lucy Rojas.

“I expected it because of the kind of talent we have,” said Rojas, who is in her second year as the head coach of the Tigers. “I thought that we would be more competitive this year.”

By day, Rojas is a sergeant with the Jersey City police department, with whom she has dutifully served for the last 14 years.

“I sleep very little,” Rojas laughed. “They better appreciate me, because I’d rather be sleeping.”

The rest of her day, Rojas concentrates on making the Tigers more and more competitive. That has not been an easy task, but she has tried diligently.

Rojas said that she has been around the game for her entire life, following either baseball or softball. When Rojas became old enough, she became a coach in the Roberto Clemente Little League, perhaps the best youth baseball/softball organization in the city.

“Way back when, someone asked me for my help,” Rojas said. “I always wanted to coach in high school, so I thought this was a good start.”

Sure enough, Rojas paid her dues and bided her time, becoming a highly respected coach who worked her way up the ranks, eventually getting her chance to take over the moribund Snyder program.

“First of all, I knew that the talent was there,” Rojas said. “I’m always talking to them, telling them that they could do it. I’m always trying to encourage them. They can’t overwhelm themselves. They have to concentrate on their hearts. If we can just show a little bit of heart every time out, then we’ve done a lot.”

As mentioned before, the Tigers had seven wins last season, but Rojas knew that they would be vastly improved this year.

The Tigers faced St. Dominic Academy to start the 2019 season and right away, Rojas just sensed a difference.

“I knew that there could be a change this year,” Rojas said. “In the past, they didn’t believe in themselves. They would make one error and get down on themselves. Last year, we lost to Secaucus in the county tournament and we got on the bus and I said, ‘Let’s start the year next year the right way.’ We had the talent, but we gave up. I wanted to start this year with the positive approach.”

The victory over St. Dominic Academy to begin the season started the Tigers on a new course.

“It gave us a boost of confidence,” Rojas said. “You could just see it in the way they were all playing. We played well defensively and defense wins games. We were aggressive on the bases and at the plate. We came up big on discipline and fundamentals. I’m always challenging them. I always stress giving 110 percent every day.”

Rojas told her players to watch other players on YouTube.

“There’s no better way to learn than to watch others,” Rojas said. “It’s exciting to watch them improve. It’s exciting and fun.”

Rojas said that she convinced assistant coach Modesta Rivera to get on board with the off-the-field coaching approach.

“We work well together,” Rojas said of Rivera. “There’s no better way to learn.”

The pitcher is sophomore right-hander Jordan Mendolla, who has developed into one of the best hurlers in the county.

“She’s excellent,” Rojas said. “She throws hard. She also has a good change-up and good riser. She’s young, so she can only get better. Her confidence has improved tremendously. She’s able to control her emotions and that’s important. She’s a leader. Everyone looks up to her. She’s also doing a good job with the bat. She has a lot of power.”

Mendolla is batting .600 with six doubles, one triple and 15 RBI.

The catcher is junior Nayeli Estremera, who is the daughter of local softball coach Nelson Estremera and the niece of former Ferris All-Area standout Pito Estremera. So Nayeli obviously comes from good stock.

“She has a powerful bat,” Rojas said of Estremera, who is hitting .385 with nine RBI.”She’s also a team leader. She does a little bit of everything.”

Estremera also pitches when needed.

Senior Mackenzie Nolan is the team’s first baseman. Nolan was so determined to take over the duties at first base.

“She went out and bought a first baseman’s mitt,” Rojas said of Nolan. “She was a JV player last year. She’s definitely the most improved player.”

Senior Jasmin Kenny is the second baseman. Kenny is hitting .481 with nine RBI.

“It’s her third year with the varsity,” Rojas said. “She has a lot of speed and has been hitting the ball well.”

Sophomore Aaliyah Morales is the shortstop.

“She has a lot of speed,” Rojas said of Morales, who has eight stolen bases. “She was on the track team, but came out for softball this year.”

Senior Ava Myskowski is the third baseman. Myskowski’s tale is an interesting one.

“She never played softball until this year,” Rojas said. “She’s just a natural athlete. She plays basketball, but I think she’s just as good of a softball player as she is in basketball.”

Sophomore Chloe Tiangsing is the left fielder. Tiangsing is hitting .417 with eight RBI.

Junior Bianca Figueroa is the centerfielder. Figueroa, a transfer from Hoboken, is batting .400 with 10 RBI. Freshman Nicole Borowski is the right fielder who “keeps getting better day after day,” according to Rojas.

Senior Kayla Rosario is the team’s designated player who moves back and forth between third base and first base.

“She has a lot of power,” Rojas said of Rosario, who is hitting .308 with seven RBI. “If we need a bit hit, she’s going to be the one who delivers it.”

So the Tigers have an impressive 9-2 record. Most people in local circles would call it a major surprise, but that doesn’t include the head coach.

“I wouldn’t call it a surprise,” Rojas said. “I expected them to compete this season. I watched these kids mature and grow up. I’ve been blessed to watch these kids. They’re very respectful and they never give up.”

They are certainly making believers out of a lot of people now. The Tigers received the No. 4 seed in the Hudson County Tournament and will get the winner of Hudson Catholic and North Bergen (winners of the last two tourney titles, Hudson Catholic in  2017 and the Bruins last year) in the quarterfinals on May 13. If that’s not proof Snyder has arrived, then what is?

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read more of Jim’s work at www.theobserver.com, read Jim’s blog at www/jimhaguesports@blogspot.com and follow Jim on Twitter @ogsmar.