Well, it appears as if they've all been participating in the Bayonne Little League's Big League Softball League. The league, which has only been in existence for three years and grew from three teams to five teams this summer, has provided the area's best softball players a safe haven to play instead of having to search far and wide for suitable places to remain sharp, like with AAU traveling teams all over the map.
The league has been run under the supervision of directors John Hennessey and Tony Saltarelli and has attracted all the top performers in Hudson County high school softball.
"We're giving them the opportunity to stay together and play together," said Saltarelli, a highly respected umpire and former administrator in the District 7 Little League tournament. "It's hard to go outside of Hudson County and finding a place to play. Plus, a lot of these AAU teams charge as much as $500 to play, so it can get costly. We feel like we offer a good alternative and give them a chance to play with and against some of the best softball players in the county."
More than 75 young ladies ages 14 through 18 participate in the league, with the culmination being the league's All-Star team that will participate in the state tournament this weekend in South Vineland.
"We don't turn anyone away from participating in the league," Saltarelli said. "We make a conscious effort to include everyone. But we have some girls who are looking for an extension of their high school seasons and we've been fortunate to get some good talent to play this summer."
Need proof of just how talented? Well, both the 2005 and 2006 Hudson Reporter Players of the Year are involved with the league, namely Leigh Ann Murduca (the 2005 Player of the Year from St. Dominic Academy who currently plays at Montclair State University) and Natalie Lugo (the 2006 Player of the Year from Hoboken).
There are 24 past members of the Hudson Reporter All-Area team that are currently playing in the league, like Jessica Klein, formerly of Holy Family Academy, and Alyssa Faden, formerly of St. Dominic Academy. Danielle Gaffey, a three-time All-Area honoree out of County Prep in Jersey City, is also a participant in the league.
Former Bayonne ace hurler Shannon Force and current Bayonne mound queen Ashley Tassone are in the league.
From North Bergen, slugger Cassandra Chenet, who set new school records in batting average, hits, homers and RBI this past season, and catcher Johanna Gonzalez have joined the league this year. The same for High Tech's All-Area backstop Nicole Jimmerson.
Holy Family Academy, the 2006 HCIAA Coviello Division champion, is well represented with the appearances of All-Area performers Grace Keller and Caitlin Veverka, as well as teammates Michelle DeFillippo and Danielle Dundas.
St. Dominic Academy also has a strong presence in the league with standout players Caitlin Lundberg, Sherri Rosenberg and Jackie Tredo.
Other players of note include Sandra Gomez of High Tech and Raquel Roder of the Academy of St. Aloysius. The Bayonne Big League All-Star team will certainly be a strong one when the state tournament begins this weekend. Jimmy Murduca, Leigh Ann's father, will manage the team, with assistance from Saltarelli and Jimmy Jimmerson.
"Leigh Ann has been playing Little League softball since she was 8 years old," Saltarelli said of the former Hudson Reporter Player of the Year. "Every time she got to this level, something happened and they never won. Well, this is her last shot and we believe that we finally have a team that can contend for a state title. We hopefully can do it this year."
If the Bayonne Big League All-Stars win the state tournament, they will move on to the Eastern Regionals in Connecticut next weekend. Stay tuned...
It's definitely been a summer to remember for Weehawken's baseball teams. First, Weehawken's 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars captured the District 6 championship for the first time ever and they actually won their first game in the state tournament, defeating Morristown last Tuesday night, 10-3.
But the Weehawken Senior Babe Ruth (ages 16 through 18) won the Bergen County League championship as well.
For a town that hasn't enjoyed a lot of success in the summer months in recent years, it's good to see Weehawken get a sense of resurgence with these two championships.
Incredibly, two rising stars, namely Jack Montanile of Hudson Catholic and Andrew Nasti, who plays for Weehawken High, were standouts for both teams, including rising star Edgar Montilla and outfielder Kelly Hogan...
Union City has a 13-year-old Dale Murphy team that has been doing outstanding things this summer and will now head to the Dale Murphy World Series later this week. We'll have more on the exploits of the Union City team next week...
The EXTRA INNINGS weekly feature focuses on the best stories that come from local baseball and softball leagues throughout the area. If you have any noteworthy information to contribute to the EXTRA INNINGS, feel free to contact Jim Hague by voice mail at (201) 798-7800, ext. 751, by general mail at 1400 Washington St., Hoboken, NJ 07030, or via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. Please include a telephone contact name and number, in order to secure further information for a possible story.