Top Stories of 2019 - No. 2 - Softball returns to prominence

Cumberland went 22-17-1 in 2019 with a first round playoff victory and a berth in the Region XIX Final Four
Cumberland went 22-17-1 in 2019 with a first round playoff victory and a berth in the Region XIX Final Four

After winning the Region XIX Championship in 2015 and falling just one win short of repeating as champions in 2016, the Cumberland Dukes Softball team went through a transition phase during the next couple of seasons before returning to the top of the conference and region in 2019 with a 22-17-1 record. To pinpoint where the resurgence began, Dukes fans can point to three student-athletes. Megan Culley, Siani Gomez, and Breanna Suppi became the foundation on which Cumberland's comeback would be built on.

Despite winning just 8 games in 2018, Cumberland lost five games by 4 runs or less and were in the playoff hunt late in the season before a doubleheader sweep dropped them from playoff contention. Knowing that the little things cost them potentially seven wins and a playoff berth motivated the sophomore trio and help lead an infusion of freshmen talent as well as assist first year head coach, Magic Mears. Culley, Gomez, and Suppi all stepped up and contributed in big ways which led to a memorable season.

Culley, a 2nd-Team All Conference honoree, was the Dukes leading pitcher. A Liberal Arts major from Millville, NJ, Culley dominated in the circle in 2019 with 17 starts to go 10-3 and 14 complete games. In total, she tallied 114.2 innings pitched with 98 strikeouts including a no-hitter against Montgomery County on April 27. Breanna Suppi earned 2nd-Team All Region and 2nd-Team All Conference honors as one of the top dual-athletes this season. The Vineland native was one of the top offensive players for the Dukes as she knocked around 55 hits and 30 RBIs to earn a .487 batting average, good for second on the team. In the circle, the hard-throwing righty pitched 71.1 total innings and racked up 68 strikeouts.  Siani Gomez was the consistent, steady performer the Dukes needed in 2019. The infielder from Vineland was one of the top defenders in the region and delivered clutch hits throughout the season including an early season 4-game stretch where she batted .750 with 7 RBIs.

Joining the trio in 2019 were the high impact performers of Gianna DeMarco, Alexis Donnelly, Alyse Jackson, Sarah Morgan, and Alicia Serrano. DeMarco and Donnelly provided versatility for the Dukes with Donnelly pitching a total of 49.2 innings on the season. Morgan was a 1st-Team All Conference and All Region performer for the Dukes as their primary leadoff hitter. The quick-footed freshman from Woodstown, Morgan was one of the top defensive outfielders in the region as he notched 58 hits on the year and stole 51 bases, which put her near the top of the national leaderboard. Serrano, a Franklinville native, shared the outfield with Morgan to form arguably one of the best duos in the country. Offensively, Serrano had the second most hits on the team with 59 to go with a .468 batting average, 13 doubles, 3 home runs, and 40 RBIs. Lastly, Alyse Jackson was one of the top hitters in the country. Firmly planted in the top 5 in in many of the national offensive leaderboards, Jackson carried the Dukes throughout the season. The Vineland native led the Dukes in hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, batting average, on-base pct, slugging pct, and OPS.

In the postseason, Cumberland would go on to defeat Sussex County in the first round of the Region XIX Playoffs before falling to Brookdale 2 games to zero in the Region XIX Final Four. Look for the Dukes to once again contend for a spot in the National Tournament, built from the foundation of the Class of 2019 of Culley, Gomez, and Suppi.