What kind of magic has Jamie McGroarty worked with the Eastern softball team?
None, the Vikings coach said after his team won 12 games in a row and positioned itself to share the Olympic Conference American Division crown with Washington Township.
"We started hitting, and Steph [Vuono] has gotten better pitching," said McGroarty, who guided Eastern to a share of the division title with Cherokee last season.
"We haven't had the same lineup two games in a row for a long time," McGroarty added. "We've been rotating 11, 12 girls in the lineup."
All in an attempt to get the bats going, which he has done.
As of Tuesday, Eastern's last loss was to Cherokee, 2-1, on April 15. The two division rivals are scheduled to meet again Thursday at Eastern. If the Vikings get their revenge, they could be cochampions of the division with Washington Township, provided that they beat Cherry Hill East again on Saturday.
"This will be a big game," said Vuono, who was a shortstop last season. "This will definitely be nerve-racking.
"We have definitely improved our hitting; we're more patient. Instead of going for home runs, we hit in the gaps, put the ball in play, and it has been working well."
Vuono didn't say it, but she has improved, too, especially in her velocity and endurance, according to McGroarty.
Cherokee, which has the same division record as Eastern, 4-2, has no chance to share the title with Township if it beats Eastern. Township beat Cherokee, twice this season. But that doesn't matter to the Chiefs.
"This is a really big game, especially since we are in the same conference," Cherokee shortstop Gina McCool said. "Both teams have changed since the beginning of the season. Hopefully, we have changed for the better."
New record holder. Holy Cross senior Taylor Steele struck out 16 batters on May 9 in a 7-0 win over Burlington County League rival Riverside to become the school's record holder in career strikeouts.
With 543 Ks, Steele surpassed the previous mark of 537 set by Kristi Gola in 2004. Steele threw a three-hit shutout to improve her season record to 11-4.
A common refrain. West Deptford coach Mandy Schramm lamented her team's 10-3 loss to host Gloucester Catholic last Thursday by sounding a common coaches' refrain: Where's the hitting?
In a season plagued by rainouts, some teams are still trying to get into an offensive rhythm while they play makeup games that leave them exhausted.
"We got runners on base," Schramm said. "It wasn't like we didn't have opportunities. We can't get multiple players to come through and hit together. One or two are not enough."
Schramm said the Eagles planned to participate in the NJSIAA postseason tournament regardless of whether their record was at .500 by Saturday, the cutoff date. They were 9-8 after dropping a 5-3 decision to Audubon, which had ousted them in a South Jersey Group 2 semifinal last season.
NJSIAA Tournament. Postseason play for public schools is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Non-public schools are set to start on May 26.
The second round is scheduled to start on May 26 for public teams and May 31 for non-publics. The third round is set for May 31 and June 3, respectively.
Sectional finals are set for June 3, followed by the state semifinals on June 8.
State finals for Public and Non-Public are scheduled for June 11 at Toms River North and East, respectively.