By BRIAN CUNNIFF
NORTH WILDWOOD — The Wildwood Catholic High School softball team has a much different look than it did at the end of last season.
A few injuries and decisions by other players not to come out for the team again this spring have left the Crusaders ultra thin.
So thin that they played powerful St. Joseph Friday afternoon with just nine players.
The Wildcats moved their record to an impressive 20-1 with their 7-3 victory. But the loss did nothing to discourage Wildwood Catholic’s spirits.
“I think we did great here,” Wildwood Catholic coach Matt Megines said. “We knew from the beginning of the year we were going to be down a few girls. The goal is to play the regular season the best we can and get through it and get healthy and be ready for the playoffs.”
Wildwood Catholic battled the Wildcats to a 2-2 stalemate through four innings. But St. Joe added a run in the fifth, three in the sixth and another in the seventh to take a 7-2 lead.
Emily Cimino, after being walked three times (two intentionally) earlier in the game, slugged a long home run to the opposite field in left center with two outs in the final frame for Wildwood Catholic (5-4). Consecutive hits by Bella Feraco and Noelle Probst kept the inning alive, before Caroline Deegler hit a sharp ground ball that the St. Joe second baseman did well to turn into a force out at second base to end the game.
“I’ve never been as happy after a loss as am today,” Megines said. “We could’ve tucked our heads but the girls really battled. I thought we did well. We have to just bide our time until we get everyone back.”
Starters Alyssa Katz and Kesami Hittafter are expected back before the end of the regular season, Megines said. Unfortunately, the team will not have the services of senior Anna Mae Peterson, who batted .465 with 16 extra-base hits and 43 RBI last spring. Peterson suffered a knee injury prior to the start of the season.
“The hard thing for us right now is that teams can pitch around our top hitters,” Megines said. “Last year our lineup was deep one through eight. This year we’re not as deep.”
Wildwood Catholic beat St. Joseph for the South Jersey Non-Public B championship last season. The Crusaders would love nothing more than to get another crack at the Wildcats in the postseason.
“We just want to be as ready as we can be come the playoffs,” Megines said.