Softball is a team sport, and as the saying goes, there’s no “I” in team. Newark Charter’s softball team is as well rounded as it has ever been, with contributions coming from nearly every position in the field and every slot in the batting order.
“Each player in our lineup contributes each game in some way shape or form,” sixth-year head coach Jessica Wolfe said.
She said she teaches players not to worry about their individual statistics.
“Sometimes, what is best for the team doesn’t help a player’s individual statistics. Whether it is getting down a sacrifice bunt, advancing runners, laying out for a ball to keep an opponent from scoring a run, or lifting a ball to the outfield for a sacrifice fly, these girls are willing to do it all for each other, regardless of the effect it has on their individual statistics,” she said. “These girls are willing to sacrifice their personal successes for the success of the team, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Despite the emphasis not being on individual statistics, there are several players with some very impressive ones. Senior Alyssa Noonan leads the team in batting average (.480), RBIs (10) and slugging percentage (.600). A pair of freshmen, Sami Sobocinski and Ashlee Trala, lead the team in runs (10) and hits (11), respectively. Both are hitting above .300 and both played varsity as eighth-graders.
“Trala is a natural short stop, however, last season when we needed a catcher, she stepped up for us,” Wolfe said. “She is having a fantastic year behind the plate and is learning each day. She is extremely coachable and anyone who watches her play can see her love for the game.”
Despite her small stature, Sobocinski swings a big bat.
“Sobocinski is one of our toughest outs in the batting order, but due to her small stature, I think opponents tend to look past her,” Wolfe said. “She has extremely quick hands and is a great example of the phrase, ‘Big things come in small packages.’”
Newark Charter’s season didn’t start as planned when the Patriots dropped their first two games.
“We play a tough schedule, the first four games of the schedule being very tough,” Wolfe explained of losses to Appoquinimink and Middletown followed by wins against Red Lion and William Penn Charter (Pa.). “It’s hard to play tough games early in the year, especially when most of preseason is spent practicing inside. But to be considered one of the best, you have to play the best. Our team understands that. Our team knows we can compete with top teams in the state if we play our game. However, some days playing mistake-free softball is easier said than done, especially for high school students.”
The Patriots went into spring break with an impressive 7-3 record, with their only other loss coming to currently undefeated Delaware Military Academy.
“The key to our successes so far this season has been team camaraderie,” Wolfe said. “In my 11 years of coaching, I have never coached a team that is as close as this one. Each day, they work hard for their teammates. They pick their teammates up at the plate and in the field. They care about each other and value the friendships that they have created. All of our wins this season have been team wins, where players one through nine have contributed.”
One pleasant surprise has been freshman pitcher Olivia Stubblebine, who had big shoes to fill after the graduation of Caitlin Pontak, who started all four years and earned multiple all-state honors. Stubblebine is 6-2 with a 2.658 ERA.
“For being a freshman, she is extremely poised on the mound,” Wolfe said. “She is extremely coachable and works very hard. Being just 14 years old competing at the varsity level is a challenge for any player, but an even bigger challenge for a pitcher. She has done a fantastic job for us so far this season, and I am excited to see her develop.”
Wolfe pointed to this year’s senior class as a whole as being instrumental helping the younger players develop at a faster rate than most, and not just between the lines.
“Not only do our seniors lead by example on the field, but they lead by example off the field as well,” she said. “They have great reputations in the softball community and in the Newark Charter community. Our seniors are tremendous role models and play a huge part in helping the coaching staff develop the underclassmen.”
One of those seniors is Bella Hagen, a first-team all-state selection last season who Wolfe calls “our ultimate team leader each and every day.”
“Honestly, it’s just all about our team chemistry,” said Hagen, who is second on the team with nine RBIs. “We are like a giant family and all have super important roles on the team. That’s what makes us a special group of girls.”
This group hopes to make this season even more special by not only making the state tournament, but winning the first postseason game in the program’s short history. To do so, the Patriots still have some work ahead of them entering the final stage of the season with a 7-4 record and five games remaining against teams with .500 or better records.
“In softball, just like any sport, the teams that tend to do well in the postseason are the teams that get ‘hot,’ not necessarily the team with the better record,” she emphasized. “With that being said, I think everyone in that state tournament has an equal chance to win it all. Hopefully we will finish out the rest of the season playing well and will be able to enter the state tournament playing our best softball.”