Countdown to No. 1
No. 1 Immaculate Conception
Last year’s record: 28-2; Final ranking: 4
Best assets: The two-time defending Non-Public B state champions could be the most talented team in the state. The Blue Wolves return eight starters from last season’s team, which was upset in the Bergen quarterfinals by eventual finalist Northern Highlands. Senior Gabby Slade and junior Sarah Piening top a balanced lineup that is loaded at the plate and stingy in the field. Slade (.571, 4 HR, 32 RBI, 39 runs) highlights a powerful crew that includes Andee Lupica (.485, 26 RBI, 31 runs), Lea Georgatos (.438, 31 RBI) and Alison Moran (.467, 32 RBI). Piening was a force in the circle last season, going 22-2 with 252 strikeouts, a microscopic 0.86 ERA and 17 shutouts.
Biggest concerns: Loaded with so much talent at every position, Immaculate Conception’s biggest enemy could be Immaculate Conception. The Blue Wolves need to stay focused on the team’s goals and not let the high expectations weigh them down. The big-game experience that all these players gained the past two years should go a long way toward preventing that as they look to finish as one of the best teams in the state.
– Greg Schutta