By Brian Deakyne
LITTLE SILVER — Over the last five minutes of spring training, there was no question about what the Red Bank Regional softball team is looking for in 2012.
The entire varsity squad, including some junior varsity members, stretched across the entire diamond, bat in hands, batting helmets on, mimicking the coaching staff and perfecting batting stances.
The Lady Bucs head coach Denise D’Esposito later confirmed it: they want to hit the ball well.
“Our hitting is going to be an asset this year,” D’Esposito said. “We’ve gotten better at it each year, the kids are working hard on their form, and we’re really excited about it.”
Red Bank Regional is coming off a season in which they finished under .500 and were ousted via mercy in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III state playoffs last May.
The Bucs, seeded 13, fell 10-0 to fourth-seeded Wall last season in their final game.
“Our goals this year are to make the Shore Conference Tournament and finish with a winning record heading into the state tournament,” D’Esposito said.
RBR will be led in 2012 by their four senior captains — all players who have been in the program for all four years and all people who have played major roles throughout their entire careers, D’Esposito said.
“We have a lot of younger girls, and we just want to help get them ready,” said captain Breanna Hartman. “We have had a lot of freshman here and we want to make sure they’re ready to pass this on, like we have been for four years.”
The Bucs’ will have their hands full, playing a number of high-quality teams, although D’Esposito said they do have their eyes on some specific games.
“We play in a tough division with some big teams,” she said. “You have SJV [St. John Vianney], Raritan, and Holmdel. We were able to knock off Holmdel last year but we would like to beat the rest of those teams this year.”
“We are definitely looking forward to the Matawan game,” senior Trisha Langley said. “It’s more of a team goal than a personal goal. They got the better of us in the Shore Conference Tournament last year, so it’s definitely a game that we all are looking forward to.”
The Bucs’ will look toward senior pitcher Alexis Hines. As a junior, Hines was the go-to-girl for RBR, starting every game.
“Setting an example is really important,” Hines said. “For the younger athletes, it’s important to make sure they are always working hard.”
D’Esposito said the team would need to continue to work hard throughout the season in order to reach their goals.
“We need to work hard on our fundamentals and keep continuing to learn from our mistakes, game-by-game,” she said.
The Lady Bucs’ will open their season on March 23, where they will hit the road to take on Ocean Township.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” senior Shannon LeBlanc said. “I play year-round, a lot of the girls do. It’s about 50-50 between being mentally ready and having a lot of skill. You always have to be there and work up the courage to come out here and to want to be there. It all comes down to training hard.”