New Egypt is getting shuteye and shutouts this season

Posted: May 02, 2003

Little siestas are not uncommon for members of the New Egypt softball team as they pass time on long road trips from their Ocean County campus.

"They take naps and we usually wake them up about 15 minutes before we get there," Warriors coach Carolyn Eckhardt said.

The power naps must be working, especially for the pitchers, who have put opposing hitters to sleep this season.

New Egypt (14-2) has surrendered just 11 runs and boasts 11 shutouts in 16 games. Heading into yesterday's contest at Riverside, the Warriors pitching staff had tossed six straight shutouts - including three straight no-hitters at one point - in their last six games.

The rotation has five pitchers, an unusually high number for softball.

"We're deep at pitcher and that's a good thing," Eckhardt said. "Fortunately, we've been able to get all of them work."

Christine Kukoda, the lone senior on the team, is the ace of the staff. She owns four shutouts, including a pair of no-hitters.

"She's a very smart pitcher," Eckhardt said.

Brianne Foote, the No. 2 starter, has pitched a no-hitter. Taryn Pulvermuller, Brittany Kennedy and Shannon Houston round out the staff.

Heading into this week, Houston, a pesky leadoff hitter, led the team in batting average (.528), runs (13), hits (19) and stolen bases (eight). In her first 36 at-bats, she had struck out just three times.

The Warriors start four freshmen with Houston, catcher Sara Messinger and outfielders Jessica Quattrone and Kennedy.

New Egypt, which went 10-10 in the program's debut last season, appears to have a lock on the Freedom Division title and could be a challenger to defending state champion Pennsville in the Group 1 playoffs.

Both of New Egypt's losses were by one run, including a 1-0, 11-inning setback against Rancocas Valley.

The Warriors certainly aren't afraid of a challenge. When Whippany Park dropped out of Sunday's Lancer Jost tournament at St. John Vianney, Eckhardt made a call and signed her team up. Included in the field is Mount St. Dominic and St. John Vianney - both ranked in the state's top 20.

Being patient. Bordentown coach Chris O'Leary had pleaded his case numerous times, but the message just wasn't getting through to his players.

"They needed to be patient at the plate, lay off the junk and wait for their pitch," he said. "But they just weren't buying into it earlier in the season."

They are absorbing the advice these days. The Scotties (10-3) have won six of their last seven games and reclaimed the top spot in the Burlington County League Patriot Division.

Senior Jessie Trout has become one of the team's big run producers and leads Burlington County with seven doubles.

Senior designated hitter Marianne Allegretti, who is hitting over .450, and junior first baseman Randi Temple have been key contributors. Bordentown has scored in double digits in each of its last six wins.

Moving up. Cherokee catcher Monica Danser was fourth on the depth chart last season, designated to play junior varsity.

After two catchers graduated and a third decided not to go out for the team this spring, Danser, a junior, found herself the varsity starter. Danser hasn't missed a beat since taking over, according to coach Mike Medrick.

"Monica has really come on strong," he said. "She handles the pitching staff extremely well and has put together some really timely hits."

Take 2. After last Saturday's games were rained out, the prestigious Hammonton Tournament will start today at 4 p.m. and continue through the weekend at Hammonton Lake Park.

The semifinals are scheduled for Sunday at 5 p.m.; the championship game follows at 7 p.m.

Around the bases. West Deptford, which scuffled through a 2-22 season last year, appears to have turned the corner. The Eagles (4-7) took Colonial Conference front-runner Audubon to the limit before dropping a 4-3 decision on April 14.

Contact suburban staff writer Tom McGurk at 215-854-5721 or tmcgurk@phillynews.com.

South Jersey Softball Top 10

Through Wednesday.

Rk. Team Rec. Comment

1. Cherokee 11-0 The Chiefs have allowed one run or fewer in eight games.

2. Pennsville 12-0 The Eagles are 38-1 in their last 39 games dating back to 2002.

3. Gloucester Cath. 12-0 The Rams have allowed just seven runs in 12 games..

4. Camden Catholic 6-2 Sophomore Tiara Harris emerging as an elite player at shortstop.

5. Clearview 8-1 The Pioneers are the best team not in Hammonton Tournament.

6. Audubon 11-0 The Green Wave are averaging 7.6 runs per game.

7. Bishop Eustace 6-2 Despite scoring two runs, the team is 2-2 in its last four games.

8. Rancocas Valley 9-1 The Red Devils banged out 20 hits in 12-1 win over Holy Cross.

9. Cumberland 6-2 Gina Kobylinski and Tara Fisher own a combined seven doubles.

10. No. Burlington 17-5 The Greyhounds have allowed just one run in last four victories.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Lenape 7-3; New Egypt 14-2; Shawnee 6-5; Williamstown 5-2.

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