Sometimes, if you’re a high school coach, a top player just happens to fall into your lap and your team benefits tremendously from the newcomer’s arrival.
Well, that’s the way Hudson Catholic softball coach Eric Lopez is feeling these days, especially after the transfer of All-Hudson County pitcher Jordan Mendolla from Snyder to the Hawks for her senior season.
“I was surprised,” Lopez said of Mendolla’s transfer. “I didn’t know she was coming. She just enrolled on her own.”
Lopez said that he had high hopes for the Hawks before Mendolla’s arrival.
“Our expectations were pretty high before Jordan transferred,” Lopez said. “Now, with Mendolla being here, hopefully, we can get to the [Hudson County Tournament] championship game.”
The Hawks have begun the new season in fine fashion, winning four of their first five games, including all four within the confines of the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League. In those four county wins, the Hawks have scored at least 14 runs in each victory.
Getting Mendolla to take the ball every game is a blessing for Lopez.
“She’s been embraced by the team and she’s embraced the team,” Lopez said. “Jordan has taken on a leadership role already.”
Mendolla has pitched consecutive shutouts over Kearny and Dickinson.
“I really think Jordan can pitch at the next level,” Lopez said. “She has the potential to do so, but I think she’d really like to be a shortstop. To get ready for this season, Jordan has added other pitches to her arsenal.”
The Hawks have two catchers to choose from in junior Isabella Mayoral and sophomore Julia Sanchez.
“Isabella can also play first or third base,” Lopez said. “I love Julia’s personality. She has become a great leader. I wish I had a couple more like them in the field. They will both be in the lineup someway. I can’t afford to take their bats out of the lineup.”
Which means that one will catch and the other will serve as the Hawks’ designated player.
First base duties are being shared right now between freshman Tiara DeSanto and sophomore Alyssa Rivera.
“Both have been doing pretty well,” Lopez said. “Lately, Alyssa’s bat has been on fire. She has a lot of power.”
Sophomore Haley O’Connor is the Hawks’ second baseman.
“She’s a very good athlete,” Lopez said. “She can hit the ball well. She has a little bit of pop in her bat.”
Senior Cheyann Fulton is the Hawks’ shortstop and the only other senior on the team except for Mendolla. Fulton has already signed a national letter of intent to play at Berry University in Florida beginning this fall.
“She’s been my captain since her sophomore year,” Lopez said. “She’s been like my coach on the field. We’ll talk on the phone to discuss strategy. I never have to worry about her. She is a team player through and through. No matter what I ask her to do, she’ll do it.”
For example, when Fulton first signed up for softball at Hudson Catholic, Lopez made her a left-handed slap hitter to utilize her speed and base running ability. Those days are gone.
“I knew I had a couple of slappers coming up, so I told Cheyann she can swing away,” Lopez said. “I told her that she had earned it. She’s on pace to get her 100th hit. I’m expecting a very big year out of her.”
Sophomore Jaeda Figueroa is a transfer from Kearny who plays third base.
“She’s fearless,” Lopez said. “She’s a very hard player to get out. I’ve been very happy with her.”
The regular left fielder is sophomore Angelina Rivera.
“I saw her playing in Washington Park, flying down the bases,” Lopez said. “When she said she was coming to Hudson Catholic, I was excited. She’s a lefty slap hitter who can run.”
Freshman Ava Rivera is the team’s centerfielder. It’s safe to say that the Hawks lead the county with players named Rivera. And they’re not related.
“She’s very good at running balls down in center,” Lopez said. “She’s our best outfielder. She’s a straight-up kind of player.”
Freshman Nayalise Flietis is the right fielder.
“She’s a scrappy little hitter,” Lopez said. “She’s another slapper. I think that puts pressure on the defense to make plays. She’s a terror on the basepaths.”
Sophomore Naijah Classen is the team’s back-up pitcher who also sees time at first base and the outfield.
“She hits the ball hard,” Lopez said. “We have a lot of good players. It’s hard to find playing time for some of them. They all put the team first. They’re willing to sacrifice individual goals for what they can do as a team. As long as they do, they’ll compete. The wins will soon come.”
Just as soon as Mendolla signed her transfer papers…
Here are some noteworthy performances from the Hudson County contingency at the St. Dominic Academy Invitational.
Kai’Leel Jefferson won both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. The Hudson Catholic speedster won both the races with times of 11.22 for the 100 and 23.07 for the 200. Talk about exploding out of the gate? Well, Jefferson will get the last laugh when he does well.
Hoboken speedster Ty Wholf was fourth in the 100-meter run and 5th in the qualifier for the 200-meters. He will have to score more in order to get the Redwings a victory lap…
McNair Academic’s Adam Aboshanab was third in the 1,600-meter run in 4:59.20. Dickinson’s Vincent Chapeau, the younger brother of former Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Claire Chapeau, is following in his sister’s footsteps, finishing fourth in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200.
Among the girls’ performers, North Bergen senior Alexandra Bartutis won the javelin and was second in both the high jump and long jump. Teammate Cocoro Carr won the 400-meter hurdles, was second in the 110-meter hurdles and third in the high jump. Fellow Bruin Kipomy Luperon was fourth in the 100-meter dash and teammate Kaysia Dusajn won the 110-meter hurdles in 17.25 seconds.
Bayonne’s Sofia Porch was second in the shot put, St. Dominic Academy’s Milani Bethel was second in the 400-meter dash and third in the 200-meter dash. Teammate Kayla Sullivan was fourth in the 1,600-meter run. Marisol Vasquez of Union City took home third in the 3,200-meter run…
Some of the top baseball and softball moments thus far include eight different Bayonne players collecting at least one RBI hit in their win over Snyder for the Bees’ first win after a COVID break. Quincy Mitchell pitched one inning of relief, striking out two….
Landon Paradine of St. Peter’s Prep enjoyed a fine week to begin his varsity career. He went five-for-11 with five RBI….
In softball, Weehawken freshman Savanna McHale started off her softball career with seven hits, including a homer, and three doubles and seven RBI. McHale is hitting .700 in the early going…
Dickinson catcher Julio Abreu is the main catcher for the Rams and he had a positive week, as Abreu had four hits and seven RBI in three games. Abreu slugged a triple, homer and four RBI in a win over Roselle Park…
I find it downright ridiculous and sad that Hudson County’s lone daily newspaper has totally turned its back on the deserving high school athletes, who soak up any coverage that they get. I got some news for you people at the Jersey Journal: No one is going to read that paper with no local sports at all. They should be ashamed of themselves…
Hudson Reporter High School Baseball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (1-0). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (5-1). 3-Ferris (4-1). 4-Secaucus (1-0). 5-Union City (2-2)…
Hudson Reporter High School Softball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (4-1). 2. Bayonne (4-1). 3. North Bergen (4-3). 4. St. Dominic Academy (4-1). 5-Secaucus (0-0). – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com