For the last four seasons, the North Bergen High School softball team has won its fair share of games, contended for the HCIAA Coviello title each time, advanced to the finals of the county playoffs, only to suffer a setback either to St. Dominic Academy or Holy Family Academy.
“It makes you wonder what we’re doing wrong,” said veteran North Bergen head coach Tom Eagleson. “I feel a lot like the guy who coached the Buffalo Bills.”
Eagleson was referring to Marv Levy, who guided the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances, all four resulting in losses.
“I think the kids are a little determined not to let it happen again,” Eagleson said. “We have a lot of players back from last year, so that will help a lot.”
The biggest help comes from the talented girl in the pitching circle. Sophomore Carla Arismendi was Hudson County’s top newcomer last year, winning 20 games, posting a 1.40 earned run average, and striking out more than 200 batters. She already has a win under her belt this season, having defeated rival Bayonne in the season opener last week.
Arismendi had to endure some slight growing pains at the end of last season, but Eagleson is convinced that she will be better than ever this time around.
“It was a little different for Carla, coming in as a freshman and being asked to do so much,” Eagleson said. “She had played in big games before in summer leagues and travel, but it was totally different in high school. She’s absolutely better this year. She’s definitely throwing the ball faster and she’s worked on her other pitches. She has a better change-up than in the past. If she masters that, it could make her a great pitcher.”
Arismendi is also the Bruins’ cleanup hitter at the plate. She batted better than .400 last year with 30 RBI and hit two homers in one scrimmage this season. An All-Area selection last season, she appears headed for another stellar campaign.
The Bruins also return two other members of the Hudson Reporter’s All-Area team from a year ago, namely sophomore second baseman Tiffany Garzon and sophomore shortstop Jazmin Palma.
“Tiffany was a better than .400 hitter for us last year and she’s definitely a better player, especially as a fielder,” Eagleson said. “Jazmin has been tremendous. I can’t ask for anything more from the girl. She’s going to be the best shortstop we ever had.”
Junior Jocelyn Cabrera moves from the outfield to behind the plate, where she replaces All-Area backstop Johanna Gonzalez.
“Jocelyn has been great back there,” Eagleson said. “She went for lessons during the off-season and played a lot at catcher over the summer. It’s really helped her to get ready for this year.”
Junior Tiffany Lorincz returns to her starting position at first base. Senior Andrea Jijon is also back at third, giving the Bruins a complete infield with experience.
“Having your entire infield back is a huge plus,” Eagleson said.
Junior Shenade Rey, a transfer from Cliffside Park, is in left field, along with junior Crystal Torres. Sophomore Ashley Heredia moves from right field to centerfield and serves as the team’s leadoff hitter. Sophomore basketball standout Ashley Vazzona has joined the softball squad and is the right fielder.
“She was a big addition to the team,” Eagleson said.
Junior Genesis Santos offers depth in the outfield.
While defending champion Holy Family has moved from the Coviello to the Seglio in the HCIAA’s final season, the Coviello race appears to be among three teams this season, namely the Bruins, St. Dominic and Bayonne.
“We used to say it’s among the other three,” Eagleson said. “Now, it’s the other two. But this is a team that was built for more than one year and I would be very disappointed if we’re not playing for it at the end of the season.”
And maybe, just maybe, the tide can turn a little this season in the Bruins’ favor…
Legendary St. Anthony basketball coach Bob Hurley was denied entrance into the National Basketball Hall of Fame for a second time and frankly, the whole process is a little silly.
Why in the world do they announce who the finalists are months in advance, then come up with the five or so inductees? Why not just announce the inductees at the Final Four?
Because the way it is set up now, it certainly gives the finalists a sense of false hope that they might make it and when it doesn’t happen, there’s such a letdown.
When asked a few weeks ago, Hurley was realistic about his chances this year.
“I mean, it’s hard going against guys like Michael Jordan, David Robinson and John Stockton,” Hurley said.
But when reached this week after the announcement, you could sense there was a little disappointment in his voice.
“It was hard because I had so many people waiting to hear the word last Thursday,” Hurley said. “We were waiting for three hours and told to keep that three hours open. There were so many people who anticipating the news and when we got the call, it was a little disappointing.”
Hurley said that he may ask the National Basketball Hall of Fame to take his name out of the running until he officially retires from coaching. Either way, the man is a Hall of Famer and should have gained induction by now. This whole waiting game is absurd…
Finally, this is an open request to all readers. North Bergen boys’ basketball coach Kevin Bianco recently learned that he is seriously ill and will begin a long, hard, grueling and tedious battle to recovery. We need everyone to let him know that we’re with him, behind him, supporting him, loving him, every step of the way.
I’ve had the pleasure to know Kevin Bianco since he was in grammar school. I coached against him when he was a youth basketball standout in North Bergen and I’ve watched him mature into a fine high school and college player, overcoming many obstacles along the way, and then into a brilliant high school basketball coach, eventually leading North Bergen to its first HCIAA championship in 30 years.
There are no better people in high school sports in this area than Kevin Bianco. He is the warmest, most caring, most considerate and straight forward honest young men I’ve ever known.
His good friend and former coach, Chuck McBreen, said that Bianco fought through stereotypes about his size (or lack thereof) and became a success.
“The kid has been a fighter his whole life,” McBreen said. “This is just another fight.”
It sure is – and one that we hope and pray that Bianco wins. So as we celebrate Easter this weekend and get together with family and friends to celebrate the holiday, let’s all pause, reflect and pray for truly one of the best young men around. Here’s to you, Kevin. – Jim Hague
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