Roselle Park softball ready to challenge again for Union County and Group 1 supremacy; Defending county and state champs have some injury issues at onset

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Roselle Park senior Maddie Hummel was 23-3 last year and batted .410 with three home runs and 33 RBI out of the No. 3 spot in the order.

For the second time in program history the Roselle Park softball team will have the opportunity to repeat as state champions.
After losing only three seniors to graduation and with seven starters back, the Panthers are primed to put together a season worthy of last year’s groundbreaking 27-3 finish that included county, section and state titles.
However, Roselle Park head coach Fran Maggio – now in his 23rd season at the helm of the Panthers – will bat someone else at the top of the lineup and have a different catcher behind the plate.
That’s because returning senior backstop and leadoff hitter Hailey Ortega is still recovering from a torn ACL injury she suffered from playing volleyball this past fall.
“Right now we have her cleared to play for April 17,” Maggio said.
Roselle Park’s first 10 games are from April 1 to April 16. The Panthers are scheduled to host division rival Westfield April 17.
“Hailey had surgery on Nov. 1,” Maggio said. “We have no intention of catching her before May 1.”
The Union County Tournament will commence the last week in April. Roselle Park captured the crown last year for the first time since repeating in 2004.
“We want to have Hailey back for the stretch run, that’s what we’re focusing on now,” Maggio said.
Ortega, one of the top catchers in Union County, batted .367 last season with 36 hits in 98 official at-bats. Ortega produced 15 RBI and belted three doubles and three triples. She also walked 14 times and stole 20 bases.
While she sets the table immediately on offense as Roselle Park’s leadoff batter, it’s her defense that Maggio raves about the most.
“She’s the best defensive catcher I’ve ever had,” Maggio said.
Ortega is at practice every day and still serves as an important senior team leader as she waits for her injury to heal so that she can play again.
Taking her place at the moment is freshman Reina Jeronimo, who has the opportunity to catch one of the best pitchers in the state – senior right hander Maddie Hummel.
This is some of what Hummel said after Roselle Park defeated Gloucester City 4-3 in nine innings in last year’s Group 1 state championship game at Kean University: “we’re 27-2, but I think we could have done even better.”
Although Roselle Park closed with a loss to eventual champion Steinert (the Group 3 state champion) in the second Tournament of Champions, getting past Cedar Grove to win its Group 1 semifinal was – perhaps – the team’s No. 1 goal all season long.
After losing to Cedar Grove and standout pitcher Mia Faieta 2-0 at Montclair State University two years ago, the Panthers found a way to get past the Essex County Panthers and Faieta, winning 2-1 in eight innings at Caldwell University. Three years ago Roselle Park was defeated by Butler 4-0 at Caldwell in the Group 1 semifinals.
The Panthers will be seeking a fourth straight North 2, Group 1 crown this year.
After winning N2, G1 in 2003, Roselle Park did not have a chance to defend that section title in 2004 because the NJSIAA moved the Panthers to Central Jersey, Group 1. There, Roselle Park was defeated by Middlesex in the sectional final. Middlesex went on to win Group 1 in 2004.
As good of a pitcher that Hummel is – she fashioned a 23-3 record last year during the first season Roselle Park reached and passed 25 wins – she is just as prominent smacking the ball from the No. 3 spot in the order.
Hummel batted .410 last year – 41-for-100 – and had three home runs and 33 RBI.
“She’s not only one of the top pitchers in the state, but one of the top hitters,” Maggio said. ”She’s one of the best hitters I’ve had in my 23 years of coaching here.”
Hummel will play at the next level and is presently considering Division 3 schools Moravian and Kean.
“She worked hard all year, is healthy and has pitched very well in all of our scrimmages so far,” Maggio said. “She’s ready to go.
“Right now she’s working on a rise ball. As good as she is, she’s not a strikeout pitcher. She’s working hard on getting that ‘out’ pitch.”
Last year’s squad averaged nearly seven runs.
“We have a good hitting team,” Maggio said.
The other returning starters include the Cieslinski triplets – now juniors – with Emma at first base, Madison at second and Lexi at third; junior Sarah Lippin in center field and junior Gabby Scott at designated player.
Replacing since-graduated standout Angelina Chacon at shortstop are freshman Miranda Taveras and senior Meaghan Mooney. Both of those players will also see time in left field after Paige Junior did such a fine job there before graduating last year.
Scott will also play first base and outfield, while sophomore Danielle Crown is a utility player, capable of playing catcher, first base and in the outfield.
Roselle Park’s other senior lost to graduation was Merissa Gilic, who was a solid right fielder for the Panthers.
First-year varsity player Luana Daluz is a backup infielder.
During Roselle Park’s first scrimmage against Dunellen – which was at home – Tavares and Mooney collided in the outfield. Tavares, playing shortstop, suffered a broken nose. Mooney, playing left field, suffered a severe concussion.
“It was a pop up in between the two of them,” Maggio said. “There was a little lack of communication. It sounded like two coconuts. To Meaghan’s credit she held on to the ball and the out was recorded.”
Roselle Park, after winning the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division championship outright the past three seasons, is now situated in the Watchung Division. Roselle Park joined Cranford, Elizabeth, Gov. Livingston, Johnson and Westfield to form a six-team league this year.
Johnson won the Watchung last year, GL the year before, Johnson in 2016 and Johnson and GL shared the crown in 2015.
Union Catholic and Summit moved up from the Valley Division to replace Roselle Park in the Mountain. UC and Summit shared the Valley title last year.
“We always play up and have been doing that for years,” Maggio said.
Roselle Park did not lose to a Union County team last year – the losses were at Watchung Hills 1-0, at Hanover Park 5-3 and to Steinert 5-1 in the TOC quarterfinals at Ivy Hill Park in Newark.
Roselle Park also went undefeated against Watchung Division teams last year, defeating Elizabeth, Westfield, Cranford and Gov. Livingston in the regular season and Elizabeth (semis at Kean) and Westfield (final at Kean) again in the UCT.
“Bring it on is what I say,” Maggio said. “The difference this year is that we will now play those teams twice. We’ll be okay this year based on the team we have, but it will be even more difficult the following year.”
Having achieved the kind of success they produced a season ago Maggio’s squad is hungry to get right back at it.
“There’s such a fine line between winning and losing,” Maggio said. “The teams are so good. A bloop hit, an error, a walk, it all plays a big part in how it all shakes out. That’s part of it.
“The kids have to have that eye of the tiger. They have to really want it.
“I’ve been preaching not to get complacent and to keep working because it’s not going to come easy.”
NOTES: Maggio’s record at Roselle Park is 361-197-1 (.647). He has led the Panthers to the last six of their nine sectional state championships and to both Group 1 state titles.
Hummel surpassed 500 career strikeouts toward the end of last season.
Roselle Park – including 19-13 and 17-10 finishes in 2016 and 2017 – has gone 63-26 the past three seasons. Last year’s 27-3 finish was the school record for wins in a season.

April 1 Bridgewater-Raritan, 4 p.m.
April 2 at Westfield, 4 p.m.
April 3 Johnson, 4 p.m.
April 5 Union, 4 p.m.
April 6 Lenape Valley, noon
April 9 at Cranford, 4 p.m.
April 10 Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
April 12 at Summit, 4 p.m.
April 13 at Phillipsburg, 11 a.m.
April 16 at Gov. Livingston, 10:30 a.m.
April 17 Westfield, 10:30 a.m.
April 18 Benedictine, 4 p.m.
April 20 Brearley, 10 a.m.
April 23 Union Catholic, 4 p.m.
April 25 at Ridge, 4 p.m.
April 27 at South Plainfield, 11 a.m.
April 30 at Brearley, 4 p.m.
May 6 Old Bridge, 4 p.m.
May 7 at Johnson, 4 p.m.
May 8 Cranford, 4 p.m.
May 10 at Dunellen, 4 p.m.
May 14 at Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
May 15 Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m.
May 17 Hanover Park, 4 p.m.


On Sunday, May 19, 2002 Cranford junior right hander Christine Pemoulie tossed a four-hitter in beating Union 5-0 at Linden’s Memorial Field for her 10th consecutive victory and the team’s 12th straight.
What made the victory even more special was that it came in the Union County Tournament championship game.
Cranford was finally the UCT champion.
After serving as an assistant coach at Cranford, Pemoulie is now in her first season as the head coach.
Two days before the sixth-seeded Cougars captured the first of their now five UCT titles, Pemoulie shut out Roselle Park 1-0 on a one-hitter in the UCT semis at Linden.
That victory happened to be head coach Terry Biunno’s 200th.
Pemoulie, a Special Education teacher at Orange Avenue School, went 16-6 on the mound in 2002, including a 15-game winning streak.
Cranford, which also captured the Watchung Conference’s National Division title that year with an 8-1 league mark, went on to win 18 straight before falling to top-seeded West Morris 1-0 in the North 2, Group 3 final. Pemoulie was also sharp that day, tossing a four-hitter.
Pemoulie was a four-year varsity player for Biunno and one of the top pitchers in Union County during her time with the Cougars.
Pemoulie earned 3rd Team All-Union County honors her freshman year in 200o and First Team recognition her sophomore, junior and senior seasons of 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Her senior year she pitched in the UCT and North 2, Group 3 finals once again.
After Pemoulie shut out Gov. Livingston 3-0 in the UCT semis at Linden to improve her record to 15-3 – Kelly McGovern blasted a three-run homer over the left field fence on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the top of the fourth for the game’s only runs – the Cougars were back in the UCT championship game.
This time it was Roselle Park and junior right hander Becky Riccitelli which would prevail by the score of 1-0 in 11 innings. After tossing a three-hitter with six strikeouts and no walks against GL, Pemoulie limited top-seeded Roselle Park to just six hits, while striking out 10 and walking just one.
Pemoulie produced 43 and 1/3 shutout innings in UCT play over the 2002 and 2003 tournaments before Roselle Park scored with one out in the bottom of the 11th to win the 2003 crown. Pemoulie pitched four UCT shutouts en route to the title in 2002 and three more in 2003.
A McGovern sacrifice fly brought home Kiera Zimmerman in the bottom of the ninth to lift Cranford to a 1-0 home win over Nutley in the 2003 N2, G3 semifinals. Pemoulie tossed a five-hitter that included five strikeouts and four walks.
Then in the final at Whippany Park, Cranford was topped by second-seeded Jefferson 4-2, with the Falcons winning the game in the bottom of the seventh. Jefferson came back from a 2-0 deficit that Cranford held as late as the fourth inning.
Cranford finished 21-4 and shared the Watchung-National title with Linden.
Pemoulie earned a bachlelor of arts degree in psychology and special education from Marist College. She coaches winter, spring and summer softball clinics and camps such as team practice and workout camps.
Cranford is coming off an 11-9 season that saw the Cougars finish 4-4 and in third place in the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division.
Back this year include seniors Bridget Dineen, Jayna Mallon and Erin Schwerdtfeger and sophomores Morrigan Gardiner, Ava Manfra, Mia Markase and Elizabeth McCaffery.
Cranford opens April 1 at home vs. Elizabeth at Adams Avenue Field and is then on the road April 3 against Gov. Livingston.
Cranford is scheduled to host Dayton April 5 and defending UCT and Group 1 state champion Roselle Park on April 9.
April 1 Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
April 3 at Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m.
April 5 Dayton, 4 p.m.
April 9 Roselle Park, 4 p.m.
April 10 at Johnson, 4 p.m.
April 12 at Brearley, 4 p.m.
April 13 Wallkill Valley Tournament
10:30 a.m. High Point
April 16 Westfield, 4 p.m.
April 17 at Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
April 23 Scotch Plains, 4 p.m.
April 24 Somerville, 4 p.m.
April 27 at Caldwell, 11 a.m.
April 30 at Kent Place, 4:45 p.m.
May 7 Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m.
May 8 at Roselle Park, 4 p.m.
May 10 at Columbia, 4 p.m.
May 14 Johnson, 4 p.m.
May 15 at Westfield, 4 p.m.


Gov. Livingston
Roselle Park

Scotch Plains
Union Catholic

VALLEY DIVISION (5 schools):
Kent Place
New Providence
Oak Knoll

SKY DIVISION (5 schools):
Roselle Catholic


1-Johnson (6-2) – outright champions
2-Gov. Livingston (5-3)
3-Cranford (4-4)
4-Westfield (3-4)
5-Elizabeth (1-6)
Not played: Elizabeth at Westfield

1-Roselle Park (9-0) – 3-peat outright champions
2-Brearley (7-2)
3-Scotch Plains (4-5)
4-Dayton (3-7)
5-Benedictine (2-6)
6-Union (2-7)
Not played: Roselle Park at Scotch Plains
Benedictine at Union / Brearley at Benedictine

VALLEY DIVISION (6 schools):
1-Summit (9-1) – co-champions
Union Catholic (9-1) – co-champions
3-Oak Knoll (6-4)
4-New Providence (3-7)
5-Rahway (2-7)
6-Linden (0-9)
Not played: Rahway at Linden

SKY DIVISION (6 schools):
1-Plainfield (10-0) – outright champions
2-Kent Place (8-2)
3-Roselle (6-4)
4-Hillside (3-6)
5-Roselle Catholic (2-8)
6-St. Mary’s, Elizabeth (0-9)
Not played: Hillside at St. Mary’s

2012 TO 2018

Watchung: Johnson
Mountain: Roselle Park
Valley: Summit, Union Catholic
Sky: Plainfield

Watchung: Gov. Livingston
Mountain: Roselle Park
Valley: Summit
Sky: Kent Place

Watchung: Johnson
Mountain: Roselle Park
Valley: Union Catholic
Sky: Oak Knoll

Watchung: Gov. Livingston, Johnson
Mountain: Rahway
Valley: Benedictine

Watchung: Westfield, Johnson
Mountain: Rahway
Valley: Roselle Catholic

Watchung: Westfield
Mountain: Rahway
Valley: Summit

Watchung: Gov. Livingston
Mountain: Johnson
Valley: Dayton, Kent Place