BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- With 11 seniors returning from a team that went to the Somerset County Tournament championship game last season, Ridge High School softball coach Jackie Tarulli had every reason to expect 2020 would have been a landmark campaign for her team.
But, like every other team in every other fall sport, the Red Devils never got that chance. Their season was over before it began, with school closing due to the coronavirus pandemic just as pre-season scrimmages were about to begin in March.
The season was not officially called off until the NJSIAA followed Gov. Phil Murphy's May 4 decision to keep schools closed through June by canceling all spring sports.
"I was trying to maintain hope that we could salvage part of the season, thinking that it would be a shame to end the way that it did," Tarulli said. "I was definitely optimistic that we would get a few games in. What happened was so unfortunate. I feel terrible for the seniors who got their season taken away from them."
Few softball teams in the county would have boasted a more experienced cast than the one the Red Devils were planning to put on the diamond this spring.
"Eleven seniors is a pretty big number, and most of them were starters," Tarulli said. "We had some underclassmen who were contributing, but I was confident in this class that going into the season they could make a really good run in the county and the sectionals. We would have competed on a really high level this season. We were hoping to make a name for ourselves."
The Ridge softball program has transformed into a potent player in the Somerset County landscape in Tarulli's four seasons as head coach. The team had endured several losing seasons in a row before she took the reins in 2017.
"The girls have worked hard over the past few seasons with me," Tarulli said. "We were so senior-laden, it’s a shame. It’s crushing really, knowing how successful I know this group would have been is adding salt to the wound. It's a great group of girls. Knowing both their successes and failures, It stinks not being able to see what they could have accomplished this year. They have done a really good job of creating a new culture for Ridge softball, establishing high standards that we like to hold them to, They have done that on many levels."
The 11 seniors in the Ridge softball program, with the coach's comments about each:
Sophia Berger: Pitcher/1b, power lefty
Allegra DeCandia: Returning starting catcher and cleanup hitter
Annabelle Hamilton: Returning starting shortstop, would likely have played 3b for us this year and very powerful and consistent hitter at the plate
Carly Kosakowski: OF/IF for us and would have definitely contributed
Lauren Lusardi: OF for us a solid bat in the lineup would definitely have been key to our wins
Gigi Duncan: Catcher, a versatile player who would have been integral to our team dynamic
Allie Martine: OF returning, very solid hitter and outfielder
Emma Mertz: Center fielder returning, very consistent and smooth outfielder
Maddy West: returning for the first time since her injury which caused her to miss time last year
Hope Wiatroski: Returning solid infielder for us and would have contributed to a lot of wins
Gillian Wyman: Pitcher/3b who also would have contributed time for us over the year