There was a time not that long ago when Roselle Park was at the top of the hierarchy concerning Union County softball.
The Panthers may be heading back to that lofty perch soon.
After impressive back-to-back 1-0 victories in consecutive days this past weekend, Roselle Park begins the third week of the 2018 season with Union County’s best overall record – 7-0.
The defending champions also lead the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division once again, 5-0 at the moment.
Roselle Park won 1-0 at home over Watchung Division foe Elizabeth Friday and then followed that up Saturday with another 1-0 triumph, this time at arch rival Brearley, who entered the game also perfect at 4-0 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain Division.
Roselle Park defeated Brearley 4-3 at home in last year’s North 2, Group 1 state championship game, winning the section for the second straight season.
Goals this year, in addition to winning the Mountain Division again, include a better showing in the Union County Tournament and this time advancing to the Group 1 state championship game.
“We have all the components,” said head coach Fran Maggio, now in his 22nd season at the helm of the Panthers.
Maggio became Roselle Park’s winningest softball coach last year, surpassing John Wagner, who finished with 317 wins. Maggio’s record including this year’s 7-0 start is 341-194-1 (.673).
“We only lost three seniors, so the nucleus is back,” said Maggio, who has guided Roselle Park to five state sectional championships (N2GI 2002, N2G1 2003, CJG1 2010, N2G1 2016, N2G1 2017), two Union County Tournament championships (2003, 2004) and one Group 1 state championship (2003).
Junior right hander Madison Hummel, with two varsity seasons under her belt, has fashioned three shutouts so far. She two-hit Union 8-0 at home on Opening Day.
Against Elizabeth she struck out 11 and walked five in tossing a three-hitter. Her control was better against Brearley as she did not issue a base on balls, while striking out six. She allowed only one hit.
“Madison is legit,” Maggio said. “She gives us a chance to win every time she goes out there.”
Hummel is 5-0 so far with 39 strikeouts in 35 innings.
“She’s just in a good place right now,” Maggio said. “She’s a grizzled veteran at this point. She’s been in so many big games over the course of her career.”
Hummel was the winning pitcher in the last two North 2, Group 1 finals, winning at Dayton 4-3 two years ago when she tossed an eight-hitter.
“Madison is very comfortable in tight situations,” Maggio said. “It goes back to the schedule we play, which hopes to set us up for success in the state tournament.
“She doesn’t get rattled. She feels that she can get herself out of any situation. She’s very confident.”
Offensively, Maggio said the team has been sparked by senior right fielder Merissa Gilic (9 RBI) and senior shortstop Angelina Chacon (.400 batting average). Hummel (.435 BA) also excels at the plate and drove in the game’s only run when she hit a single that scored Sarah Lippin in the bottom of the first vs. Elizabeth.
Chacon is a four-year varsity starter – left field as a freshman and shortstop ever since.
“She’s just a great kid who plays hard and always has herself prepared,” Maggio said. “She knows most of the girls in the county through summer ball and knows the top players on other teams. She’s always giving me scouting reports.
“She has a great approach to the game and takes it very serious.”
Also, vs. Brearley, sophomore second baseman Madison Cieslinski hit a solo home run in the top of the second for that game’s only run. Junior catcher Hailey Ortega produced two singles.
“Hummel also swings the bat well, as good of a pitcher as she is she also helps us with her bat,” Maggio said. “Ortega (11 hits, .478 BA) is one of the best catchers I’ve ever had.
“She works hard, is a great leadoff hitter, swings the bat well and runs well. She’s a great catalyst.”
This week’s schedule is very challenging, the way Maggio likes it. The 2016 team went 19-13 and last year’s squad finished 17-10, yet the Panthers were sectional state champions both years despite double-digit defeats.
Games against the likes of formidable out-of-county foes such as Bridgewater-Raritan, Metuchen, Whippany Park, Watchung Hills, South Plainfield and Bound Brook – in addition to Watchung Division squads Johnson, Westfield, Elizabeth, Cranford and Gov. Livingston – keep the Panthers focused prior to when county and state tournament competition commences.
“To be 7-0 is nice, but I told the girls not to get too excited yet,” Maggio said.
In addition to wanting to 3-peat in North 2, Group 1 next month, Roselle Park also has its sights set on competing for the UCT crown.
Last year – after winning at Scotch Plains 9-1 and before beating the Raiders again at home 7-1 in Mountain Division play (Roselle Park won the Mountain last year perfect at 10-0) – the fourth-seeded Panthers fell at home to 13th-seeded Scotch Plains 4-1 in a first-round UCT contest.
“We talked about that (the county tournament) right away in the pre-season,” Maggio said.
Roselle Park last won the UCT in 2004 when the Panthers repeated. Roselle Park has won the crown in 1982, 2003 and 2004.
“Scotch Plains, I felt, should have been higher than a 13 seed,” Maggio said. “The kids were kind of embarrassed about their showing in the county last year.
“I know they want to make a little bit of noise in the county this year. It’s been a while since we’ve done that. I think it’s one of those years where it’s wide open. I don’t think there is really any one dominant team.”
2018 ROSELLE PARK PANTHERS:
5-Madison Hummel, junior RH pitcher
8-Hailey Ortega, junior catcher
29-Emma Cieslinski, sophomore first baseman
17-Madison Cieslinski, sophomore second baseman
6-Alexis Cieslinski, sophomore third baseman
7-Megan Mooney, junior third baseman
24-Angelina Chacon, senior shortstop
19-Paige Junior, senior left fielder
1-Sarah Lippin, sophomore center fielder
4-Merissa Gilic, senior right fielder
9-Gabrielle Scott, sophomore RH pitcher
20-Luana DaLuz, sophomore reserve
Head coach: Fran Maggio, 22nd season
341-194-1 (.673), includes this year’s 7-0 start
7-0 and 5-0 in UCC’s Mountain Division:
April 6: Roselle Park 8, Union 0 – at Roselle Park (Mountain)
April 9: Roselle Park 9, Dayton 3 – at Dayton (Mountain)
April 10: Roselle Park 18, Benedictine 2 – at Benedictine (Mountain)
April 11: Roselle Park 5, Bridgewater-Raritan 4 – at B-Raritan
April 12: Roselle Park 8, Scotch Plains 5 – at Roselle Park (Mountain)
April 13: Roselle Park 1, Elizabeth 0 – at Roselle Park
April 14: Roselle Park 1, Brearley 0 – at Brearley (Mountain)
April 16 Johnson, 4 p.m. (Mountain) – postponed
April 17 at Westfield, 4 p.m.
April 19 at Metuchen, 4 p.m.
April 20 at Whippany Park, 4 p.m.
April 21 Cranford, 10:30 a.m.
April 24 Dayton, 4 p.m. (Mountain)
April 26 Brearley, 4 p.m. (Mountain)
April 30 at Watchung Hills, 4 p.m.
May 1 at Union, 4 p.m. (Mountain)
May 3 at Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m.
May 4 Linden, 4 p.m.
May 5 at South Plainfield, 10:30 a.m.
May 8 Benedictine, 4 p.m. (Mountain)
May 9 Bound Brook, 4 p.m.
May 11 at Hanover Park, 4 p.m.
May 12 at Scotch Plains, 11 a.m.
May 15 DePaul, 4 p.m.
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT DATES:
Preliminary round – Wednesday, April 25
First round – Saturday, April 28
Quarterfinals – Wednesday, May 2
Semifinals – Saturday, May 5 at Kean, begins at 3 p.m.
Final – Sunday, May 6 at Kean, 2 p.m.