A stolen base. A blast into the right-center field gap. A diving catch at second base.
When Megan Berg does something spectacular for a team, it is immediately followed with, “What doesn’t she do?”
Her mix of speed, power and defense drew widespread interest on the collegiate level, and on Monday the Jersey Outlaws-DB standout verbally committed to play at Division I Fairleigh Dickinson, beginning in the fall of 2020.
A starter in each of her first three years at Northern Burlington High, the 5-foot-7 Berg can be slotted into the lineup anywhere from leadoff to the five hole. She has 2.89-second home-to-first speed.
The 2018 All-South Jersey selection and highly decorated player, surely a future coach like her father Dan, will pursue a degree in hospitality and tourism at FDU. The Knights play in the Northeast Conference.
So much focus in softball is rightfully on the pitcher. It helps make Alex Haley ideally suited to be a catcher.
Haley doesn’t seek the spotlight, just the opportunity to be a big part of the action and contribute to a winning team, two scenarios that have come frequently throughout her career.
One of her future goals is to keep Susquehanna University on a high level. The Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB and Steinert High School catcher has verbally committed to join the River Hawks’ Landmark Conference program in NCAA Division III as part of their 2020 recruiting class.
Haley’s winning style was particularly evident in 2018 when she was the starting catcher for a Steinert squad that ranked No. 1 in New Jersey after it captured the NJSIAA Group III and Tournament of Champion titles.
A gritty, defensively strong catcher with an accurate arm, Haley’s excellent hand-to-eye coordination allows her to hit to all fields. Off the field at Steinert, she currently ranks 15th in a 317-member junior class.
On and off the field, the connection is undeniable – Abby Zucatti is accustomed to a high level of academics and athletics.
The Hun School of Princeton junior and Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB outfielder will continue to have both at Gettysburg College. She has given a verbal commitment – a Gettysburg address, if you will – to play for coach Annette Hunt-Shepherd’s program, the defending Centennial Conference champion, beginning in the fall of 2020. She plans to study economics.
The 5-foot-8 Zucatti is a part of the original nucleus of coach Dan Berg’s Outlaws team, which has enjoyed championship-level success throughout the decade. Featuring power-and-speed athleticism to leg out doubles and patrol the gaps of the outfield, the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Prep League and New Jersey All-Prep first-team selection at Hun will one day be driving pitches toward historic Gettysburg Battlefield, which overlooks Bobby Jones Field on Gettysburg’s picturesque campus.
And they're off.
Not just running, but Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB players are throwing, hitting, pitching, fielding ... achieving.
Before they come together for the summer travel season, here’s where the Outlaws players will be found during the 2019 high school season:
Class of 2019: OF Emma Bachman (Rancocas Valley), INF/OF Nicole Cerasi (Steinert) and P Amanda Gonzalez (Northern Burlington)
Class of 2020: INF Megan Berg (Northern Burlington), 1B Alexa Blue (Northern Burlington), P/1B Elyssa Bohr (Moorestown), C/OF Alex Haley (Steinert), OF Abbi Markee (Millville Memorial), C/INF Julia Mayernik (Northern Burlington), P/OF Ashlynne Scardino (Hammonton), INF Madison Sisz (Northern Burlington), INF Gigi Venizelos (Hun School) and OF Abby Zucatti (Hun School)
Class of 2021: P Mia Barone (Neshaminy) and 3B/OF/C Alex Walsh (Northern Burlington)
The school nickname at Ramapo University is Roadrunners. That alone makes Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB’s Nicole Cerasi an ideal fit with their softball program.
But there’s more to the match.
Cerasi, a member of Steinert High School’s state championship program, has verbally committed to join Ramapo’s strong NCAA Division III program, beginning next fall. She will build on her excellent academics, including a 4.49 weighted grade point average.
The second baseman and outfielder was racing around the softball diamond long before she became a track standout. She’s been certified in 2.69 seconds from home to first. She’s also an elite bunter who can mix in power, and has a strong awareness in handling second base.
As a junior last spring, Cerasi was named to The Trentonian All-CVC first team while Steinert won the NJSIAA Group III and Tournament of Champions titles.
It makes sense Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB outfielder Emma Bachman will major in business at Molloy College.
She’s all business on the softball diamond.
Bachman, a senior at Rancocas Valley High School who carries a 3.41 grade point average, has verbally committed to play at Molloy’s NCAA Division II program, beginning next fall. She will take a versatile playing style out to Long Island, boasting speed as a lefty slap hitter and lock-down outfielder. She’s been clocked from home to first base in a certified 2.8 seconds.
Bachman moved onto the radar of Molloy coaches Susan Cassidy-Lyke and Dayna White during this past travel season. There was a lot to like and it became a quick match after Bachman’s recent visits to the campus. The Lions play in the East Coast Conference.
Madison Sisz considers West Chester University as the perfect fit for her future.
When the Golden Rams coaches plug the Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB standout into their infield in two years, they’ll be using the same words.
Sisz, a junior shortstop at Northern Burlington High School, gave a verbal commitment on Thursday to play for the West Chester’s NCAA Division II program beginning in the fall of 2020. She’s received high honors in high school and plans to study nutrition in college.
Sisz earned a handful of high school honors following her sophomore season last spring, including selections to the All-South Jersey and Trentonian All-Area first teams.
As good as Gold.
The 2018-19 travel softball season brings a new name for Jersey Outlaws Premier, which has become Jersey Outlaws Gold-DB.
The roster and elite schedule remain the same for coach Dan Berg’s team, which continues to be highly successful on the showcase level and attract the attention of many college programs. The fall campaign begins for the Outlaws on Sept. 9 at the Pink Softball Tournament.
If you looked out to center field before the top of the sixth inning began Saturday afternoon, you saw the best hug of the Jersey Outlaws Premier season.
Outfielders Emma Bachman, Abbi Markee and Abby Zucatti knew it would be the team’s final inning of the 2017-18 campaign, so why not acknowledge the great times with a group hug.
The Outlaws ended the game with their second win of the day and third in four games at New England’s Finest Summer Showcase, lifting the season total to 56. Of course, the season’s most impressive number was the college coaches who came out to see the Outlaws during the campaign. It almost seemed countless.
Oh, sure there was an exact number, but it was forgotten along the way as the Outlaws drew as many as 34 coaches to one game and 77 to an individual showcase. Exposure was always one of the bigger goals of the season, and those results outweighed the 56-16-3 record.
A season that annually begins with practice in late August and runs for 11 months – with a wildly successful high school season in the middle this year – had its shares of ups and downs, but both scenarios were embraced because the players always strived for improvement.
Coaches Dan Berg, Brian Sisz, Mark Mayernik, Steve Blue, Joe Cerasi and Robin Blue expanded the roster during the season, adding Class of 2021 prospects Mia Barone and Alex Walsh to the outstanding mix. It made for a bigger and better team, and, yes, one that was even more attractive to college coaches.
Congratulations to all the Outlaws players: Class of 2019, OF Emma Bachman (Rancocas Valley), 2B/OF Nicole Cerasi (Steinert) and P Amanda Gonzalez (Northern Burlington); Class of 2020, INF Megan Berg (Northern Burlington), 1B Alexa Blue (Northern Burlington), P Elyssa Bohr (Moorestown), C Alex Haley (Steinert), OF Abbi Markee (Millville Memorial), C/3B Julia Mayernik (Northern Burlington), P Ashlynne Scardino (Hammonton), INF Madison Sisz (Northern Burlington), INF Gigi Venizelos (Hun School) and OF Abby Zucatti (Hun School); and Class of 2021, P Mia Barone (Neshaminy) and INF/OF Alex Walsh (Northern Burlington).
It’s a good thing the catchers know what Jersey Outlaws Premier pitcher Premier Mia Barone is throwing because the right-hander has so many pitches to rely upon.
In throwing the curve, screw, drop, rise and fastball, it’s easy to see why Barone recently became a welcome addition to the Outlaws’ pitching staff.
A Class of 2021 prospect who is interested in a degree in physical therapy, Barone was a member of Neshaminy High School’s Group 6A state semifinalist squad in Pennsylvania this spring. Her best assets as a player include mental fortitude and resiliency, as she’s able to handle pressure situations.
Beyond pitching, her secondary positions are second base and outfield.
Eight was great.
Jersey Outlaws Premier was finally defeated at the 16U Colorado Sparkler on Sunday, falling 13-10 to Tulsa (Okla.) Eagles Black on the final day of the world's largest youth softball tournament.
The loss ended the Outlaws' run of eight straight wins - half in pool play and half in bracket play. While finishing third out of 120 teams, they beat four teams from California plus one each from Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana and Nevada.
What happens just outside Denver doesn't necessarily stay outside Denver because the Outlaws will bring back the energy of a strong performance, which will carry into their final three tournaments this month. They have a 21-7-3 record in the summer season and are 46-12-3 overall.
Super Tuesday is usually reserved for February or March in a presidential election year.
Jersey Outlaws Premier has claimed it for next week. An incredible 10 of the 14 Outlaws will be involved in NJSIAA sectional finals on Tuesday.
In Central Jersey Group III, Northern Burlington, with Megan Berg, Alexa Blue, Amanda Gonzalez, Julia Mayernik, Madison Sisz and Alex Walsh, will host Steinert, whose roster includes Nicole Cerasi and Alex Haley. It will be Cerasi’s third straight appearance in the sectional final and Haley’s second in a row.
In South Jersey Group III, Ashlynne Scardino and Hammonton will host Seneca.
In South Jersey Group IV, Abbi Markee and Millville Memorial will take on rival Vineland.
Rancocas Valley, with Emma Bachman, and Moorestown, with Elyssa Bohr, also enjoyed wins during the state tournament, while Gigi Venizelos and Abby Zucatti were key contributors for the Hun School squad that played in the New Jersey Prep “A” state final.
That means every Outlaws player was part of a state tournament win this year.
Maybe Abbi Markee should go out and root on Northern Burlington High this weekend.
OK, Millville High players don’t do that.
Plus, Abbi and her team are in a tournament.
But the Northern Burlington players are continuing an incredible week of reuniting Jersey Outlaws Premier teammates.
The Northern Outlaws are Megan Berg, Alexa Blue, Amanda Gonzalez, Julia Maynerik, Madison Sisz and Alex Walsh.
On Tuesday, Northern faced Hun School and Outlaws Gigi Venizelos and Abby Zucatti. On Thursday, Northern faced Rancocas Valley and Outlaw Emma Bachman. On Friday, Northern faced Moorestown and Outlaw Elyssa Bohr.
This weekend, Northern is in a tournament with Rancocas Valley and Bachman, Steinert and Outlaws Nicole Cerasi and Alex Haley, and Hammonton and Outlaw Ashlynne Scardino.
It’s a week-long schedule that’s only missing Abbi Markee, and surely one that only Outlaws head coach Dan Berg could have created.
Sorry, coach, Abbi wasn’t going to root for Northern Burlington anyway.
If you’ve seen the big smile on Amanda Gonzalez’s face recently, also check out how much Mercer County Community College softball coach Ryan Zegarski is grinning.
Gonzalez, the Jersey Outlaws Premier pitcher, has verbally committed to join the Vikings program in the fall of 2019. “Gonzo,” as she’s affectionately known, is a junior at Northern Burlington Regional High School.
After weighing several different college options, Gonzo gravitated to Zegarski’s outstanding program, which has won 392 games in his 13 seasons, and the chance to study psychology at MCCC. The right-hander is the master of the spin and adept at working the corners of the strike zone.
This weekend’s thawing has everybody anticipating sun, warmer temperatures and, of course, softball.
Count Jersey Outlaws Premier among the ones most anticipating the perfect days ahead. The Outlaws have been working toward their 2018 season, which includes at least eight showcases, featuring the Colorado Sparkler.
2018 Jersey Outlaws Premier Schedule
June 2-3: Blue Chip Super 40 Showcase (Shamong, N.J.)
June 9-10: Outlaws East Coast Showcase (Voorhees, N.J.)
June 15-17: Pennsbury Invitational (Lower Makefield, Pa.)
June 19-22: Triple Crown Summer Showcase (Ewing, N.J./Southampton, Pa.)
June 24-July 1: Colorado Sparkler (Westminster, Colo.)
July 4-6: Blue Chip DWI Tournament of Champions (Binghamton, N.Y.)
July 13-15: Nightmare Classic (Voorhees, N.J.)
July 26-29: New England’s Finest Summer Showcase (Plainville, Mass.)
Jersey Outlaws Premier has gotten bigger, better and more versatile.
That’s what Alex Walsh brings to the team.
Walsh joined the Outlaws in October, playing first base, third base, catcher and just about anywhere coach Dan Berg needed her. The Class of 2021 prospect at Northern Burlington High School has years of travel softball experience and swings a solid run-producing bat.
What Jersey Outlaws Premier opponents may find surprising is the team worked through a bunch of injuries – some big, some small – during the fall season. The Outlaws made it hard to tell as they went 25-5 against one college-committed pitcher after another.
The depth of the lineup and versatility of the players probably masked the injuries, and the Outlaws were rounding toward improved health in the final week of the campaign. Fortunately, their pitchers were healthy the whole way through.
Highlighting the seven-tournament run was a 7-0 record at the Nightmare Octoberfest Showcase. Just as impressive: The Outlaws raised $6,200 for breast cancer research for the Pink Ribbon Softball Tournament – the highest total in the event’s history.
They sat on the bench laughing, smiling, serenading each other in song – their teenage side as carefree as ever.
The song’s words likely resonated more with their coaches, parents, onlookers. You know them: Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley no low enough …
You see, everybody else felt the symbolism because they’ve seen it come to fruition so many times with the Jersey Outlaws Premier players.
This weekend’s tournament was never about a title. In fact, the Nightmare Octoberfest Showcase ended with co-winners, the action stopped after the semifinals on Sunday, the Outlaws boasting a 7-0 record.
It was always about playing well, contributing to the cause. If it led to a title, even better.
Along the way, the Outlaws faced pitchers who have committed to such college programs as Syracuse, Penn State, Princeton and New Haven, and teams from such organizations as PA Chaos, Team Long Island, New Jersey Mystics, Witches, Ducks, Philly Spirit and the host Nightmare.
Ain’t no mountain high enough, ladies.
Photo: Outlaws, front row, from left, Ashlynne Scardino, Emma Bachman, Julia Mayernik, Alex Haley, Abbi Markee, Gigi Venezelos and guest player Alex Walsh; top row, Nicole Cerasi, Madison Sisz, Abby Zucatti, Alexa Blue, Elyssa Bohr, Megan Berg and Amanda Gonzalez.
Jersey Outlaws Premier left the Pink Ribbon Softball Tournament with a 3-0 record and bracket championship, thrilled to play an excellent title game at Rider University.
Two and a half weeks later, what the Outlaws accomplished was even more evident – the team’s $6,200 donation to the tournament cause was the year’s highest. The annual event benefited Susan G Komen - Central & South Jersey and the Princeton YWCA Breast Cancer Resource Center.
Knowing every donation counts, the Outlaws staged different fundraisers while preparing for the tournament. They scored big both on and off the field.
The need was there for the Jersey Outlaws Premier pitchers to raise their game during the fall season, and they’ve been happy to oblige the team.
The Outlaws are relying on a three-pitcher rotation this fall after going with four during last season’s 65-15 campaign on the 18U showcase level. Coach Dan Berg and his staff have mixed and matched with right-handers Elyssa Bohr, Amanda Gonzalez and Ashlynne Scardino, and the Outlaws have won their first six games by a combined 38-10.
Consider last fall, opponents scored 24 runs in the Outlaws’ first six games (five wins). This season, Bohr, “Gonzo” and Scardino have embraced the added opportunities by painting the corners and letting their catchers and fielders make plays.
The second weekend of September is here. Did you hear what Tom Brady is asking:
“Are you ready for some softball?”
Indeed, Tom, just don’t tell cranky old Bill about your favorite sport.
Jersey Outlaws Premier gets its fall season underway Sunday in the Pink Ribbon Tournament, opening at Rider University for the second consecutive year, which makes sense considering the squad’s 13 players are all Class of 2019 and 2020 college prospects.
Coach Dan Berg and his staff will field a lineup that features:
Class of 2019: OF Emma Bachman (Rancocas Valley), INF/OF Nicole Cerasi (Steinert) and P/OF Amanda Gonzalez (Northern Burlington);
Class of 2020: INF Megan Berg (Northern Burlington), 1B Alexa Blue (Northern Burlington), P/1B Elyssa Bohr (Moorestown), C/OF Alex Haley (Steinert), OF Abbi Markee (Milville Memorial), C/3B Julia Mayernik (Northern Burlington), P Ashlynne Scardino (Hammonton), INF Madison Sisz (Northern Burlington), INF Gigi Venizelos (Hun School) and OF Abby Zucatti (Hun School).
If it seems likes the Jersey Outlaws Premier season just ended, well, a 3½-week break is a long time off for the coaches and players, who were more than happy this week to get back on the field and begin preparing for the fall season.
The Outlaws will play seven tournaments in September and October, beginning with the Pink Ribbon Softball Tournament on Sept. 10 in Mercer County. That’s a particularly important event for the Outlaws, who during their August break have been fundraising for its cause, breast cancer research.
Also on the Outlaws’ schedule are the Pennsbury One Day (Sept. 17) in Lower Makefield, Pa.; Xtreme Dimensions Showcase 18 Gold (Sept. 23-24) in Southampton, Pa.; Blue Chip Toys for Tots Showcase (Oct. 7-8) in Shamong; Triple Crown Xtreme Fall Showcase (Oct. 14-15) in Southampton, Pa.; Nightmare October Showcase (Oct. 21-22) in Voorhees; and TNT Fall Showcase (Oct. 27-29) in Wilmington, Del.
Jersey Outlaws Premier’s season ended on Saturday night/Sunday morning. In some ways, it was just the beginning.
The coming years expect to be fruitful for a team which expanded its roster in the 2016-17 season with Class of 2019 and 2020 prospects. The Outlaws moved up to the 18U showcase level and responded with a banner, 65-15-1 campaign, concluding with a 6-3 record at the Triple Crown East Coast Summer Nationals in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The final day produced memories for a lifetime. Facing elimination with their next loss, the Outlaws started their final day with 7 a.m. warmups for an 8 a.m. game. Lo and behold, they just didn’t want to lose, surviving through four wins and two long rain delays. Their fifth and final game of the day started at 11:56 on a Saturday night and ended at 1:01 on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Under the tutelage of coaches Dan Berg, Brian Sisz, Mark Mayernik, Laura Archer and Robin Blue, the Outlaws laid the foundation for bigger and better things in the future. The big three of shutdown pitching, timely hitting and tight defense got a boast from dedication, speed and savvy leadership.
The 2017-18 season – a month away – is calling the Outlaws already, so it’s not ending, it’s just getting better for the Outlaws.
Class of 2019: OF Emma Bachman (Rancocas Valley), 2B/OF Nicole Cerasi (Steinert) and P/OF Amanda Gonzalez (Northern Burlington). Class of 2020: P/1B Haylei Archer (Northern Burlington), INF Megan Berg (Northern Burlington), 1B Alexa Blue (Northern Burlington), P/1B Elyssa Bohr (Moorestown), C/OF Alex Haley (Steinert), OF Abbi Markee (Memorial), C/3B Julia Mayernik (Northern Burlington), P/3B Ashlynne Scardino (Hammonton), INF Madison Sisz (Northern Burlington), INF Gigi Venizelos (Hun School) and OF Abby Zucatti (Hun School). Amelia Johnson contributed greatly to the team’s success as well.
Where did the season go? Well, you know what happens when you’re having fun.
It seemed Jersey Outlaws Premier was just holding tryouts and forming as a team for the 2016-17 season, but nearly a year later the players and coaches were together for their final practice before next week’s season-ending tournament to Myrtle Beach, S.C. – the Triple Crown East Coast Summer Nationals.
The Outlaws have taken the challenge of moving up to the 18U showcase level with Class of 2019 and 2020 prospects and responded with a 59-12-1 season. They’re ending the campaign by playing in one of the premier events on the East Coast, and at a complex called Grand Park.
Oh, does that name capture the feeling of the Outlaws’ season.
Pitching in for the cause
If there is a Jersey Outlaws Premier pitcher on the mound, there’s another one not far away.
Off to the side of the diamond, pitchers are often getting loose.
Complete games are the exception with the Outlaws because manager Dan Berg and pitching coach Laura Archer keep their four right-handers – Haylei Archer, Elyssa Bohr, Amanda Gonzalez and Ashlynne Scardino – busy. All of the pitchers have appeared in at least half of the team’s 20 spring games.
They’ve combined on a 2.43 ERA while allowing fewer than one hit per inning.
The quartet will be needed – and ready – this week when the Outlaws face a strong list of opponents at the TNT Summer Showcase Classic in Quakertown, Pa.
Setting a spark at TNT
There are fireworks across the Jersey Outlaws Premier infield, so, appropriately, the team will be playing at the TNT Summer Showcase Classic this week in Quakertown, Pa.
Against a strong list of opponents – always a favorite of the Outlaws – the infielders will bring their mix of speed and power.
And when talking TNT, “Sticks” would seem just right. Alexa Blue, the Outlaws’ lanky first baseman and No. 3 hitter who’s affectionately known as “Sticks,” is currently leading the team in the Triple Crown categories.
But there’s offense all across the Outlaws’ infield, which also boasts versatility, gap power and much more with Megan Berg, Nicole Cerasi, Madison Sisz and Gigi Venizelos.
Yes, light the offense.
No doubt ‘outfield’ capped by a ‘D’
It’s not often a softball team can say its best highlights at a tournament were provided by the outfielders’ defense.
But that’s how good the Jersey Outlaws Premier outfielders were this past week at the Team NJ/Rock Challenge.
While the offense and pitchers were outstanding – in fact, the Outlaws won seven of their eight games – the outfielders even had one umpire telling another team’s coach about them. The two best catches came from left fielder Amelia Johnson on an all-out dive and right fielder Abby Zucatti on a big-time drop step and stab of a hard-hit ball.
With Emma Bachman and Abbi Markee, who both have been red hot at the plate, their speed allows them to track anything and everything in the air.
All of the outfielders expect to keep putting the clamps on this week at TNT Summer Showcase Classic in Quakertown, Pa.
Catchers on patrol
The umpires know the deception may be coming yet Jersey Outlaws Premier catchers Julia Mayernik and Alex Haley have a knack for framing strikes just right – even pitches just off the plate.
What some would-be base stealers may not know is coming is the arms of the two catchers. Haley threw out seven runners during the team’s fall season and Mayernik is building off a terrific high school campaign by nailing four runners in just three summer tournaments.
By while defense is always No. 1 with a catcher, Mayernik and Haley have been supplying offense in the lower portion of the Outlaws’ deep lineup. Both Class of 2020 prospects sport excellent on-base percentages.
The two hope to continue their all-around play this week at the TNT Summer Showcase Classic in Quakertown, Pa.