UPDATED: Columbia HS softball team shows solid chemistry as season nears

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The Columbia High School varsity softball team enjoyed a fine season last spring, finishing with a 16-9 overall record.

The Cougars are optimistic for another fine season.

The key returning players are junior shortstop/co-captain Hudson Hassler, senior center fielder/co-captain Cara Harrington, junior catcher/outfielder Claire Salinardo, junior first baseman Paige Carlson, and junior third baseman Lucy Gagne.

Hassler and Harrington will provide leadership as captains.

“They are great leaders, on and off the field, and represent our program greatly no matter on the diamond or in the classroom,” said CHS head coach Cliff Smith.

The top newcomers this season are junior catcher/outfielder Sydney Rednik, junior outfielder Olivia Miller, junior pitcher/outfielder Julia Ethan, junior third baseman Samantha Carlton, sophomore pitcher/second baseman Sydney Waldon, and junior first baseman Julia Erickson.

“I believe our biggest strength this upcoming season is our chemistry as a team,” Smith said. “These girls have been playing with each other for a long time now, and over the past two seasons, have really been broken up between JV and Varsity. This season, they are all back together and it shows, even during our early scrimmages how comfortable they are playing with each other. It is as close of a team that I have had since I took over the program in 2015.”

Smith has been encouraged by his team’s efforts during the pre-season.

“We have been playing pretty well defensively early on, even without being able to practice much outside and our hitting is ahead of schedule, compared to where it has been this early on in previous seasons.”

Smith is excited about his team’s chances this season.

“I really am looking forward to this season,” he said. “I have compiled as tough of a schedule that I have ever put together to challenge these girls, because I know how talented they can be and that is the competition they deserve to face, day in and day out. I can’t wait to see how they respond to the challenge. I really see us making a strong, strong run at the SEC (Super Essex Conference) Liberty Division championship, which we were only a game away from winning last season!”

The Cougars posted a thrilling win over Newark Academy in the season opener April 1 at Meadowland Park field. Columbia scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a walk-off 12-11 victory. Carlson went 4-for-5 with five RBI; Hassler went 4-for-5 with three runs and Salinardo went 3-for-5 with three RBI.

NOTE – Last season, Hassler made First Team, Salinardo made Second Team, and Gagne made Honorable Mention on the All-SEC-Liberty Division.

CHS schedule

April 1, Newark Academy, 4 p.m.

April 3, Livingston, 4 p.m.

April 5, at Montclair, 4 p.m.

April 6, at East Orange, tbd

April 8, at Bloomfield, 4 p.m.

April 10, West Orange, 4 p.m.

April 12, Cedar Grove, 4 p.m.

April 13, at Governor Livingston Tournament, 11 a.m.

April 15, Montclair Kimberley Academy, 4 p.m.

April 17, at Newark Academy, 4 p.m.

April 18, at Mount St. Dominic Academy, 4 p.m.

April 20, vs. Pope John, at Seton Hall University, 1 p.m.

April 22, at Livingston, 4 p.m.

April 23, at Hanover Park, 4 p.m.

April 24, Montclair, 4 p.m.

April 27, Nutley, 10 a.m.

April 29, Bloomfield, 4 p.m.

April 30, at Westfield, 4 p.m.

May 2, at West Essex, 4 p.m.

May 6, at West Orange, 4 p.m.

May 7, at Caldwell, 4 p.m.