Princz’s Perspective

The 2015 spring sports season is in full bloom at Highland Park High School, even though the weather may not be cooperating the way the athletes in track, softball, baseball and tennis want it to be.

Let’s get right to it.  In the world of track and field, the girls team is off to a terrific 2-0 start. Keith Roig’s squad Wednesday afternoon rolled to a 78-48 victory over Timothy Christian at home.

Sophomore Ania Davilla won the 100 in 14.3 and the 200 in 30.4. Esder Chong captured the 400 in 1:08 while senior Rebecca Chant  captured the 800 and 1600 meter races respectively, with times of 2:47 and 5:53. Katy Villeda captured the 3200 meters in 15:15. In the 100 hurdles Jewel Killpack captured the event in 18.7 and she also won the triple jump with a leap of 28-3. Zoe Hudgins won the discus with a time of 78-11. Finally the team of Chong, Rebecca Girvan, Bailey Nestor and Chant captured the 4×400 relay in a time of 4:51.0.

“I’m impressed with how our depth has come through in all of the events,” said Coach Roig. “There is a lot of balance all around.”

In their opener against South River April 2, the girls won 98-29. Gabby Sanchez collected 20 team points including first places finishes in the 100, 200, 400 and 4×400 meter relay events.

The boys track team evened their record at 1-1 with a 70-61 victory over Timothy Christian Wednesday afternoon at home.

Luke Schroeder captured the 400 in 56.9 and the 800 in 2.27. Ethan Bull captured the 1600 in 5.17., and the 3200 in 12.27.  Junior Farhan Rozaidi won the 100 hurdles in 19.3. He earned first place in the long jump with a leap of 16-7. Dylan Boynton captured the shotput with a throw of 36-5.  Finally the quartet of freshman Matt Landis, Christian Durant, junior Ogemde Nwadike and Luke Schroeder captured first place in the 4×400 relay with a time of 4:13.

“We were still able to win despite the fact that Caleb Espy, Gabby Sanchez, Noah Pointer and Anna Minakina were not there,” said  Coach Roig.

The season opener was a tough one for boys track as Highland Park fell to South River 65-55 on April 2 at home.  Rozaidi had 14 team points for the boys, capturing first place in the 400 hurdles and 110 hurdles, while placing second in the triple jump and third in the long jump.

Let’s move on to high school baseball now. Highland Park fell to 1-3 on the season, losing to East Brunswick Tech on Wednesday 23-1. The Owls were held to two hits. Senior Jose Ruiz knocked in the only run for Highland Park while sophomore pitcher Ryan O’Shea falls to 0-2 on the season.

After dropping their first two decisions, the baseball team captured their first win of 2015 with a hard-fought 5-4 victory over Cardinal McCarrick on Monday at South Amboy in eight innings.  Liam Roth’s bases-loaded walk scored Evan Landis with the winning run.

“This was a nice win for our kids,” said head coach Mark Blevins. “They showed a lot of resilience.”

The 1-2 Owls have been led this season by the spirited play of senior hurler Mike Kovalchik. In their win over McCarrick, Mike Kovalchik went 2-for-3 at the plate with a walk, stolen base, a run scored and pitched seven solid innings with a career high 17 strikeouts. In the Owls home opener on April 1 against Dunellen, Mr. Kovalchik went 2-for-3 with a run scored and fanned eight in four innings, despite the team dropping a 12-1 decision to the Destroyers. “Mike cares a lot about the program and wears it on his sleeve,” said Coach Blevins.

Getting back to the game against Cardinal McCarrick, Marcello Herzog had his first varsity hit: a triple to knock in two runs.  Sam Murphy drove in a run while Mr. Lanaris had a walk, stolen base and two runs scored.  Mr. O’Shea went 1-for-4, while Brian Negron, filling in for Josh Rothberg at catcher, walked.

Mr. Blevins is impressed with his sophomore catcher. “Brian has a very strong arm and will gain confidence the more he plays.”

The Owls team is one composed of mainly sophomores and freshmen who have paid off big dividends so far. Freshman infielder Sawyer Conrad started at third in the Cardinal McCarrick game and went 2-for-3 including a hit in the game-winning rally in the eighth for Highland Park.

“Sawyer is a very consistent and confident player who attacks the ball and shows no fear at the plate,” said Mr. Blevins.

In the last two games in which he has started, Sawyer Conrad is batting .500 (3-for-6) at the dish.  Matt Sussman pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth to notch the save.

Highland Park lost a tough 8-6 decision April 2 to the Crusaders in Bound Brook.  Players Lanaris and Conrad each collected two hits and two RBIs, while Matt Sussman pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief allowing no runs and striking out two.  The Owls have benefitted with some excellent defensive play in the outfield from Roth, who has made some impressive catches in the early going.

The Highland Park Owls softball team captured their first win of the season with a 5-4 comeback victory on the road at East Brunswick Tech Wednesday afternoon.

Highland Park (1-2) trailed 4-3 going into the top of the seventh inning.  With one out in the seventh, senior shortstop Carly Aversa walked and then stole second. Winning pitcher Zoe Shombert walked. Both runners advanced on a passed ball. Sophomore Ester Adiv smacked a hard single to score Ms. Aversa and tie the game at 4-4. Sophomore catcher Simona Moyal grounded out to third, but on the play, Ms. Shombert trotted home to give the Owls the 5-4 lead. The senior hurler retired EB Tech in the bottom of the frame to seal the victory. Pitcher Shombert allowed just two earned runs while fanning five and walking just one.

“I’m proud of Ester for stepping it up with a single to tie the game just when we need her,” said Coach Lori Szentgyorgi. “She definitely had heart by toughing it out after being injured in the pregame.”

The game was a back and forth struggle. At one point the Owls trailed 3-1. They came back in the top of the fifth inning with a two-out rally with two runs to tie the game at 3-3.. Senior third baseman Nyahjah Boykins led off with a single, and stole second. Senior center fielder Nautica Dennis, and junior first baseman Sydney McManus-Smith both walked to load bases. Ms. Aversa and Ms. Shombert each collected an RBI with bases loaded walks to even the contest.

“The team really pulled it together and never gave up. It was a great collective team effort. Hopefully this game will be a kick-start for the rest of our season,” said Coach Szentgyorgi.

Nautica Dennis who made a great catch in the sixth and has been a stalwart defensively, went 1-for-2 with two stolen bases and two runs scored. Nyahjah Boykins went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and a run scored.

It was a tough home opener last Monday as the Owls dropped a 13-2 decision to South River.

Ms. Boykins was the star on offense for Highland Park going 2-for-3 with three stolen bases and two runs scored. Ms. Dennis made two solid catches in center field and singled in three plate appearances.  Ms. Shombert singled and in five innings of work on the mound, struck out six Rams. Highland Park was plagued defensively committing 10 errors.

“Nautica has been clutch defensively for us but we’re struggling to stay consistent with our infield,” said Coach  Szentgyorgi.

It was a tough start in the spring season opener for Highland Park as the softball team fell to Dunellen 17-2 on April 1 at Dunellen.

Team members Boykins, Dennis and McManus-Smith each collected a hit for the Owls while Ms. Shombert struck out five. Dunellen scored all of their runs on 19 hits while Highland Park struggled defensively, committing eight errors overall. “We had an awful game all around but chalk that up to first game jitters,” said Coach Szentgyorgi.

The Highland Park boys tennis team opened up their season without its senior leader in first singles, Maverick Lin. The Owls fell to Wardlaw 4-1 on April 6 and were blanked by Monroe 5-0 on April 8. We should expect Mr. Lin to be back soon in his leadership role.  In the Wardlaw match, the lone bright spot was second doubles where Josh Chen and Gisu Chong won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1. It is a long season and look for coach Tim Stark’s squad to make headway as the season rolls along.

This is the first column of many yet to come in the Highland Park Planet.  The spotlight for my next column in Princz’s Perspective lies squarely on the Highland Park High School boys and girls track teams. Feel free to go on  or check us out on facebook to give your insight to the sports happenings in Highland Park. I’m open to all of your comments, suggestions and future ideas for possible features. Send us your photos as well. Take care. See you on the field.

Comments are closed.