FREEHOLD – The Freehold Township softball team has been on a great run over the past three seasons and this year seems to be no different. Coming off a 2018 campaign that saw the Patriots make a run at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament before falling to Middletown South, 9-8, and ending their season with a record of 16-6 (9-3 in A North).
Coach Mike Stoia, who is in his third season at the helm, enters the season with a record of 32-14. He throws out a diverse lineup this season with six seniors, nine juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. Like any good coach, Stoia knows how important it is to have great assistant coaches. Beth English (former Wall standout and Freehold head coach) has been instrumental working with the infield. Christian Erbig, a former assistant to his father at Middletown South and then a head coach at Manalapan, is responsible for working with the outfield.
“Our success over the past couple of years is because of an influx of talent and getting people to play to their full potential while meshing together,” said Stoia.
This senior class is integral to building the success that Freehold Township has become and continues to build for the future. Kiersten Withstandley highlighted a strong freshman class four years ago, when a lot of freshmen contributed on varsity and gained experience. The following year, the current juniors showed up and added even more depth to the program.
That was the year Stoia took over and put his own mark on the program, and since then the Patriots have bought in and are once again eager to make a deep run. The team continues to jell together and feed off each others’ strengths. A key reason for their success is the great leadership and coaching which has allowed the team to break down practices and work more on fundamentals with position players working in smaller groups.
This year the Patriots have their deepest group under Stoia. The only area they will need to fill is at first base and according to Stoia, they have plenty of girls competing for that spot.
Gia McKnight (15-6, 97 strikeouts) leads a strong pitching staff with an excellent defense behind her.
Offensively Freehold returns some solid bats from last season with Withstandley (.324 BA, 11 RBI, 5 doubles), senior Lauren Andersen (.259 BA, 10 RBI, 16 runs scored), senior Kayla Loges (.254 BA, 17 RBI), Junior Zoey Valentino (.515 BA, 45 RBI, and 10 home runs), junior Lauren Pscolka (.514 BA, 21 RBI, 4 home runs, 37 hits) and junior Kristen Pagliaro (.468 BA, 10 RBI, 5 doubles).
Also making contributions for the Patriots this season will be senior Megan Grimshaw who will be competing for time at first base, junior Ashley Singer also competing for first base, junior Emily Madonia, sophomore Catherin Papa battling for the No. 2 pitching spot, sophomore Kristen Lee competing for outfield time, freshman Nicole Lusnia also battling for No. 2 pitching spot, and freshman Lila Williams starting at third base.
Valentino has added to the Freehold Township record books with five runs batted in already this season, to own the career record currently at 69 She also owns the single-season RBI record with at 45, and single-season (10) and career (14) home run records. Looking to add personal milestones this season will be Withstandley (11 hits shy of 100), Lauren Pscolka (32 hits shy of 100) and Valentino (29 hits shy of 100).
Freehold Township competes in the very competitive A North division with Middletown South, Howell, Manalapan, Freehold Borough, Marlboro and Long Branch. The Patriots stumbled out of the gates, losing their season opener to Manalapan, 11-10, despite battling back to take a 10-8 lead into the sixth before falling to the Braves. Valentino hit two home runs and drove in four runs, while Withstandley went 3 for 5 with a double and a home run, two runs batted in and three runs scored.
The Patriots evened their record at 1-1 two days later with a 10-7 win over Marlboro. Loges went 3 for 5 with two runs batted in. Williams had two runs batted in and Pscolka hit her first home run of the season.
Freehold Township’s upcoming schedule includes games against Howell (April 10), Matawan (April 13), Freehold Borough (April 16) and Old Bridge (April 18).