Jackie Tarulli, Diamond Nation’s Director of Softball Operations, has been named the Courier News’ Softball Coach of the Year.
That news came a couple days after we learned Tarulli had been named the Skyland Conference Coach of the Year by NJ.com.
Tarulli just completed here third season at Ridge High School and is credited with turning the Red Devils softball program around. Ridge posted a 16-8 record this spring, its best record this century and only the third winning season the program has experienced since 1998.
Tarulli was graduated from Ridge in 2005 and went on to an excellent collegiate career at DePaul University. That said, resurrecting a program from a losing mentality to one in which the players expect to win is no easy chore. Tarulli’s resume certainly gave her credibility with her charges but she would have to persuade them that their collective abilities were enough to win in the Skyland Conference.
It didn’t help that the Skyland Conference is among the more rugged softball conferences in New Jersey. It did help that Tarulli brings an infectious personality and a deep font of positivity to the softball table.
“Coming in, I knew we needed a culture change,” she told Simeon Pincus of the Courier News. It was Pincus who named Tarulli the Coach of the Year. “The girls were not only not used to winning, it was not in their thought process.”
Ridge had registered a 137-330 record from 1998 and until Tarulli took over the program in 2017. The Red Devils are 43-28 in Tarulli’s three years, beginning with a 12-12 campaign in 2017 and following that with a 15-8 mark in 2017. But huge wins over perennial Skyland Conference and statewide powerhouses North Hunterdon and Montgomery stamped the Red Devils as a legitimate softball concern for the rest of the league’s top teams. Before 2019, Skyland Conference teams played in eight straight Group 4 championship games.
Ridge, in fact, knocked off North Hunterdon and Montgomery twice apiece this season. North Hunterdon, the 2018 NJSIAA Group 4 champion, won the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title this season. Montgomery reached the Central Jersey, Group 4 final this spring. Ridge, meanwhile, reached the Somerset County Tournament championship game for the first time since 1985. The Red Devils used a three-run bottom of the sixth inning to knock Montgomery out of the SCT but fell to Hillsborough, 8-1, in the final. Ridge had also defeated Hillsborough, another perennial power, earlier in the season.
Ridge was also co-champs in the Raritan Division of the Skyland Conference. It was a division the Red Devils shared with North Hunterdon and Montgomery. Ridge and Montgomery finished 6-2 and tied for first. Considering Ridge defeated Montgomery twice in league play, it truly should be the lone division champion. But the conference does not break ties.
“While I’m humbled and so grateful and honored to have been chosen Coach of the Year,” Tarulli said, “it’s bigger than me. My coaching staff, my players and all of our support staff and parents were a big part of the success of our program this season.”
Losing can be a disease that is hard to cure, but once the remnants of it are cast out of a program and replaced by high expectations, winning becomes even more difficult to defeat. Ridge, under Tarulli’s direction, appears primed to pull up a chair at the same table were the big Skyland Conference dogs eat.
“This honor brings more positive vibes to our program,” said Tarulli, “but also shows that we are a serious competitor in the league and will continue to fight each day to be the best that we can be and reach our highest potential.”
FINCH’S ACES HONORED STATEWIDE AND LOCALLY
The 2019 high school season was another highly successful one for Finch’s Aces players. Kylie Gletow of Hunterdon Central and the Aces’ Premier team was selected Third Team All-State by NJ.com, the only news organization covering the sport on a statewide basis. Gletow is joined by Aces teammates Julia Apsel and Megan Hanily, both from North Hunterdon, on NJ.com’s All Group 4 squad.
The Monmouth University-bound Gletow earned the All-State honor courtesy of her amazing two-way ability. The right-handed pitcher went 18-2 with a 1.15 ERA while batting .478 with 4 HRs and 22 RBI in the middle of the potent Hunterdon Central batting order.
The lefthanded Apsel joined Gletow on First Team All-Group 4 as she went 14-7 with a 1.76 ERA, struck out 155 and walked just 31 in 131 innings while batting .415.
Apsel’s batterymate Hanily, bound for Moravian in September, was placed on Second Team All-Group 4 after proving critical senior leadership behind the plate and batting .395 with 9 doubles, 5 HRs and 32 RBI.
Gletow, Apsel, Hanily, Ridge sophomore Mia Robb (9-6, 2.66 ERA, .415, 20 RBI), and North Hunterdon junior outfielder Chloe Pocceschi (.392, 19 RBI) all were named First Team All-Courier News. Senior outfielder Olivia Burd (Scranton) of Hunterdon Central was named to the Courier’s Second Team and the Finch’s Aces named Honorable Mention are Gianna Colalillo of Hunterdon Central and Taylor Hucke and Cate Sand of North Hunterdon.
The Skyland Conference coaches name all-star teams, too, and eight Finch’s Aces received that honor.
Hunterdon Central’s Gletow, Colalillo and Burd earned First Team Delaware Division and teammate Kayla Cosentino (Wesley College) was named to the Second Team. North Hunterdon’s Apsel, Hanily and Pocceschi were named First Team Raritan Division while teammate Sand was an Honorable Mention honoree.