BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -  After advancing to the sectional semifinals despite the core of its players being underclassmen, the Governor Livingston Highlanders softball team will take the field this season with hopes of advancing even further this campaign.

With the majority of last season’s squad that finished with an 18-9 record returning, head coach Mike Roof has a plethora of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

“With 11 of 13 lettermen returning, I expect this squad to have similar and hopefully greater success than the 18-9 record we finished with last year,” Roof said. “As always, I think realistic goals for this program are to get to the UCC title game and to win at least two games in our state section and see what happens from there in the semifinals.”

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Roof feels that with a little more consistency at the plate and in the field those goals will be accomplished with the potential being a deeper state tournament run that some might expect.

Roof certainly has the horses for a deep run as many of those underclassmen are now juniors and seniors headlined by the duo junior outfielder Jaime Belfer and senior Alanna Namit who pulls triple duty as the team’s top pitcher, third baseman and shortstop.

Roof will be depending heavily on those two and several others not only for on-field production but also for their leadership.

“I feel that vocal and on-the-field leadership clearly needs to be displayed by upperclassmen and that would especially have to include Jaime Belfer, Alanna Namit, senior Madison Phillips, senior Katie Debbie, and senior Nicole Trezza.”

Phillips, who plays outfield when she’s not pitching, will join Namit in a pitching rotation that also includes senior Christine Pacheco, junior Jen Murowski, and sophomore newcomer Julian Lopes. Like Phillips, Pacheco, Murowski, and Lopes will also play the outfield when they’re not pitching.

As for the rest of the Highlanders returning lineup, Debbie will once again hold it down at the plate and will be joined, in addition to Namit, in the infield by senior first/third baseman Alyssa Hammer, junior shortstop Alyssa Lombardi and junior first/third baseman Katie Hughes.

Junior Aislinn O’Keefe rounds out the outfield rotation while sophomore newcomer Janey Morabito will also play in the infield at first and third base.

The Highlanders’ pitching duties will be in good hands and if the team’s hitting can be as consistent as its pitching, the rest of the state should be put on notice.

But if the hitting doesn’t get up-to-par, it could prove detrimental to the team’s state title hopes. Roof said getting more consistent production from the plate will be a team-wide task.

“Key hitters would include our entire team because if we don’t hit across the board we will struggle at times,” Roof said. “With a little more consistency at the plate and in the field, I think this team is capable of great things as long as we stay grounded and realistic.”

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Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, www.deliciousheights.com for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.