SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -- MaKayla Sosa had herself a day on Saturday as the senior shortstop for the South Plainfield High School varsity softball team smacked two home runs, including a grand slam, to lift the Tigers past feisty Piscataway, 13-3.
At the time, South Plainfield led just 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning, but, with the bases loaded, Sosa, who bats lefty, cranked a moonshot grand slam over the right fence and hit a sign commemorating a past SPHS softball team to make it 7-2.
“It feels really good. I lost the ball in the air when I was rounding first base but I heard it in the sign,” Sosa said.
Then, in the fifth, Sosa hit a line drive two-run homer over the right field fence. She finished 2-for-3 on the day with seven RBI and three runs scored. Sosa walked with the bases loaded in the sixth and later scored.
“I’ve been trying to work really hard and seeing and hearing (the loud thud when the ball hit the sign) makes me feel like it’s all been worth it,” Sosa said. “I hit (a home run) freshman year but it didn’t really count. It hit the fence and went over. But (these were) solid.”
Speaking of hard work, Sosa has upped her game exponentially. Sosa, who is now the leadoff batter, is hitting a team-best .525. She hit .241 as a junior near the end of the order and .187 as a sophomore. So far this season, Sosa has 21 hits in 40 at-bats, 23 RBI, 18 runs scored, 13 walks, two homers, three triples, and three doubles. She has more RBI now than her previous three years combined. She hadn’t hit any doubles or triples her first three seasons as well.
Sosa credits not only Tigers head coach Don Panzarella and his staff, but her new travel team Batbusters. According to its website, Batbusters is “is one of the oldest and unquestionably the most successful organization in girls' fastpitch softball”. Batbusters has helped over 500 players earn softball scholarships in college. The teams have won over 30 National Championships and “players have been awarded the NCAA and USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year for DI Softball. There are also hundreds of Batbusters who have won All-American, All-Region, All-League and other awards”.
When Sosa joined the 18U team under coach Ken Fry, she was hard at work.
“Vigorous training,” Sosa said. “I joined a different team and they do not joke around. It’s like three hours of no-kidding practices. Doing that definitely upped my game to the max. They’ve brought my game up so much. I give credit to them, too.”
Panzarella couldn’t be any happier for Sosa’s success and has noticed her hard work.
“She’s been stepping up this year. She’s a senior. She’s been hitting the ball really well and today she hit a grand slam and another two-run homer. We needed it. Piscataway can hit. I knew they could. Thank God for the grand slam, it put us up a couple runs. I didn’t want to be close heading into the late innings.
“She’s definitely been working hard. She’ll stay after practice here and do a little extra. MaKayla really wants to be good. It pays off for kids that work hard. I’m excited for her.”
Sosa didn’t do alone however. Jennifer Flasser, Jillian Holoboski, and Delaney Born each had two hits apiece. Flasser scored once and had an RBI, Holoboski drove in a run on a double in the fifth, and Born scored twice.
South Plainfield tallied 12 hits on the afternoon.
“They’ve got to believe they win and they’re starting to believe in themselves,” Panzarella said. “If we keep it going, I think we’ll be OK at the end of the year.”
But while the Tigers had 12 hits, Panzarella was right, Piscataway can swing the bat as well. The Chiefs recorded 10 hits led by Caitlyn Erdman’s 3-for-3 day. Erdman is on the same Batbusters team as Sosa. Carly Bressler added two hits and two RBI as well.
Piscataway scored two of its three runs in the top of the first inning.
With the win, South Plainfield moved to 9-3 on the year while Piscataway fell to 2-6.
And for Panzarella, he’s on the brink of making history. He’s three wins away from breaking the all-time New Jersey high school softball record for most career wins with 743 held by Middletown South’s Tom Erbig.
Panzarella knows it’s coming, but quiet frankly, he doesn’t care all that much. Panzarella is humble and doesn’t want or need the added the pressure.
Nonetheless, it will be a big accomplishment.
“I just want to get it over with, you know,” the coach said. “It’s a great thing for South Plainfield and not only for me but for these kids and for the kids who played here in the past. I just want to get it over with.”