Soon, the NJSIAA Group 2 semifinals will be here, and Sarah Almasy and her Sterling softball teammates will be trying to do what they couldn't last season: win the sectional title and get to the state final.
Sterling's chances might have improved this year with Almasy in the circle, Kylie McGoldrick in the infield, Kylie O'Donnell in the outfield, and a team that has scored 35 runs and allowed seven in its last four outings.
Ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, Sterling has won its last eight games and sports an 18-2 overall record, 13-2 in the Colonial Conference.
Tuesday's game against visiting West Deptford was postponed to Monday. West Deptford, a Colonial Liberty Division rival, beat Sterling, 5-2, on April 21.
"I really want to go that far," Almasy said about advancing to the state semifinals and final, after Sterling beat then-undefeated Gloucester Catholic, 3-1, on April 18. "As long as we all work together, we can."
Afterward, the Silver Knights had a three-game scoring drought in which they collected five runs total; however, they've pretty much been on a hitting binge since.
When they beat Gloucester Catholic, the Silver Knights were 9-0 and Almasy had pitched eight of those victories. A converted centerfielder, Almasy was made the No. 1 pitcher because coach Kelly Tallant really had no one else to fill the position.
"I am surprised because I took off three years from pitching," Almasy said about her success in the circle. "I was playing center field, and that is what I am going to college for."
Almasy, who earned a scholarship to Caldwell College, a Division II program, is also a center-midfielder on the varsity field hockey team. However, her true love is softball.
"I like softball because of the competitiveness and the sport in general," said the Stafford resident, whose parents, Frank and Kelly, were former high school athletes. "I would be playing baseball if I were a boy."
Instead, the little girl who played tee ball at age 9 joined a softball travel team at 11 as an outfielder and pitcher, and is now a member of the New Jersey Golden Gators.
Almasy said she always had a strong arm.
To improve her prospects, the honors student worked with a pitching coach to hone her skills over the summer. It worked.
In a crucial game against Haddon Heights on May 6, Almasy used her screwball and change-up to get out of a big jam in the fourth inning. The Silver Knights ended up winning the game, 4-1, and pulling even in the conference with the Garnets (10-2).
"That was huge, and you see Sarah - she has a fiery personality," said O'Donnell, Sterling's centerfielder. "She gets angry at herself, but she's one of those people that can fuel it, and she really comes up under pressure."
McGoldrick, Sterling's star shortstop and leading hitter, said the strength of the team is Almasy in the circle, surrounded by hitters. McGoldrick leads off, followed by Almasy, O'Donnell, and Amanda Gardiner at cleanup.