Faith Hegh and Gillian McCarthy have been teammates since they were freshmen.
The Mainland Regional High School seniors shared another moment together last week as they both signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball for NCAA Division I programs.
Hegh committed to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, while McCarthy pledging to play softball for the University of Maryland- Baltimore County.
“When I first got there on campus, it just felt like home,” Hegh said on her decision to attend UAB. “I knew it was the right school for me. ... I just can’t wait to meet my new teammates.”
McCarthy had a similar mindset about her decision, adding that she already wants to help her future college team win.
“It (UMBC) has a great athletic and academic program,” McCarthy said. “It is a good fit for me.”
Hegh batted .600 with 48 hits, 37 RBIs and 32 runs scored in 2017. She also had 13 doubles, four home runs and seven stolen bases.
Hegh, a first-team Press All-Star selection last season, led the Mustangs with a .648 on-base percentage and a 1.150 slugging percentage.
“I want to make it the best season yet because it’s my last year,” Hegh said, “I would like to win a state championship, for sure, and I think we can do it.”
The Mustangs have made the South Jersey Group III tournament the last four seasons, including losing in the title game in 2016.
Mainland (16-6), the second-seeded team in the tournament last season, was eliminated in the second round by 10th-seeded Triton Regional, making this upcoming season one for redemption.
“We should have went farther last year,” Hegh said. “It was an upset, but we just have to play better this year, which I think we can.”
McCarthy, who had a 2.42 ERA and recorded 31 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings last season, aims for the same success during her senior year.
“I think we all want it a lot,” McCarthy said. “Being close the last few years, it motivates us to do well and win for each other. Hopefully we succeed this year.”
McCarthy walked 12 batters and allowed just eight earned runs.
The left-handed ace, who had a 3-1 record in 2016, can also hit. In 13 at-bats last season, McCarthy batted .385 with five hits, driving in three base runners.
“I am really excited for this high school season,” McCarthy said. “We really work well together as a team, so I hope we all can mesh and go forward.”
Brian Smith, who has been the assistant coach for Mainland’s baseball team for 19 years, will take over as head coach for Frank Marascio, who retired in June.
“These girls are strong players and are very competitive,” Smith said. “They are both D-I softball players now, so when you have that kind of ability and leadership in the program, it makes our expectations high.”
Hegh is batting .589 with 93 hits and 69 RBIs in her career.
“My opponents motivate me (because I want) to be better than them,” Hegh said. “I’m going to keep trying to win.”
McCarthy has a career 2.81 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings.
“I always put in the work outside the game so I can do work in the game,” McCarthy said.
The first-year coach is confident that the Mustangs will be ready to win in 2018, as long as the team continues to work hard.
“Again, they are D-I players,” Smith said, referring to Hegh and McCarthy. “When you have that talent on your team, if you remove that, it would hurt the team. But with that being said, this team is solid from top to bottom. ... There is too much talent here not to succeed.”