The Northfield Senior League 16-and-under softball team, which captured the Section 4 title last week, is preparing to compete in the state tournament this weekend.
Despite playing on a larger stage, business will remain the same for Northfield.
“I always tell them that it doesn’t matter who or where we play,” Northfield coach Mike Tierney said. “Regardless of what the situation is, we are always going to play our best.”
The double-elimination tournament, to be played at Buchmuller Park in Secaucus, Hudson County, will run Saturday to Monday. Northfield’s opening-round game is against the winner of Section 1 and 2 at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The championship game is at 7 p.m. Monday.
“The atmosphere (surrounding the team) is very positive and exciting,” Tierney said. “It’s a great experience for the girls to represent the town. They stayed focused and disciplined. We are excited to get up there and play our best.”
Northfield’s roster consists of players from Somers Point, Linwood and Northfield. The team competes in a recreational league with 16-and-under squads from Middle Township, Wildwood, Dennis Township and Upper Township.
Northfield won its league championship this season.
“I played with these girls for a while now,” said Maggie Wilkinson, 16, of Somers Point. “We are all really close and get along well. That really helps on the field, because we know we have each other’s back.”
Northfield won the sectional championship July 3, beating Monroe Township in a best-of-three series. Northfield won the first game 12-5 and took the second game 13-1.
Wilkinson pitched in both games and allowed three earned runs and struck out 23 total. Wilkinson, who is the only pitcher on the roster, has been dominant in the circle for Northfield.
“I know I need to do well to help the team get as far as we can,” Wilkinson said. “There can be a little pressure (being the only pitcher), but I like it. I just take it one batter at a time.”
Besides stellar pitching from Wilkinson, Northfield has been impressive at the plate. That includes Ava Zanaras, who is one of the team’s main offensive weapons, according to Tierney.
“I like to think that not only can I contribute offensively, but also be a leader to the younger players on my team,” said Zanaras, 17, of Northfield. “I want to be the best teammate I can be.”
Tierney attributed some of the team’s success to the players’ commitment to compete at a higher level. He added some softball leagues in the area have less players or fewer teams as the age level increases.
Northfield only has a 12U and 16U softball team.
“You have to give them all the credit,” Tierney said. “The girls have been playing together for a few years now, and they are starting to peak. It’s a great time for them.”
Wilkinson and Zanaras are both rising seniors at Mainland Regional High School. They also play softball for the Mustangs.
“I think we are going to do pretty well,” Wilkinson said. “We all talked about how we want to go the distance and want to win.”
If Northfield captures the state title, it will automatically advance to the Eastern Region tournament in Worcester, Massachusetts, from July 20-25. After the regional is the World Series in Lower Sussex, Delaware, from July 29-Aug. 4.
“I’m really looking forward to states,” Zanaras said. “I really think this team is determined to bring home a stage championship to Northfield.”