Bishop Ahr softball team has bright future after another great season

The 2019 campaign did not end with Bishop George Ahr High School’s first NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A sectional tournament championship since 2009.

But Bishop Ahr still enjoyed another tremendous softball season, which included a 20-3 record, a Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division championship and a Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title, the program’s second in a row.

On May 18 at Middlesex Community College in Edison, Bishop Ahr topped John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, 3-0, in the GMC championship game. It was the high water mark of the Trojans’ 2019 campaign.

After the victory in the tournament final, they were talking state sectional title, too.

Unfortunately though, the Trojans ran into perhaps the best team in New Jersey, Saint John Vianney High School, in the state sectional semifinals on May 28. The third-seeded Trojans fell to the second-seeded Lancers, 7-0, on the road in Holmdel.

Bishop Ahr coach Missy Collazo was still rightfully satisfied with her team’s season.

“Great team effort,” Collazo said.

“Great team effort,” she added.

Collazo said it twice because it was a true statement. The Trojans were a well rounded ball club all spring.

Bishop Ahr outscored opponents 180-61. Eight regular starters recorded at least a .300 batting average, a double digit runs total and a double digit runs batted in number. Junior pitcher Alyssa DeJianne went 19-3 with a 2.93 earned run average and 157 strikeouts in 135.1 innings.

“I think we’re going to do really well and keep this momentum going,” DeJianne said after the GMC title game on May 18.

At the time, she was referring to the state sectional tournament. But she could just as easily have been looking ahead to 2020.

Usually, after a team goes 44-5 and wins conference titles in back to back years, the cyclical nature of high school sports kicks in, and the program needs to rebuild for a year. But for this school in Edison, this cycle should continue into next spring.

DeJianne will be back, and she is already one of the best pitchers in central Jersey. Junior slugger Megan Herka will also return to anchor the lineup. Herka hit .608 with six home runs, 37 runs and 19 RBI in 2019.

Nine Trojans players bopped at least one homer this spring. And six of Herka’s bash sisters, including junior Allison LaRochelle, sophomore Jenna Schwartz and freshman Paige Tidaback, are slated to come back next spring as well. Those three players, like Herka, all hit multiple homers this year.

“We have great confidence,” Tidaback said. “I’m so excited to have other years with them.”

Collazo won’t need to change much in 2020. She will just have to play her hand.

But there will be a clear challenge for her talented players: rise to the level of programs like Saint John Vianney. In their state semifinal loss to the Lancers, the Trojans got just one hit and allowed two unearned runs.

It was an uncharacteristic performance against the toughest opponent they faced all year. If the Trojans get back to that point a year from now, the Saint John Vianney loss should motivate them.

Either way, it didn’t tarnish a great 2019 season. It just concluded it.

“We’re really proud of everybody,” Collazo said.