Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Keeping Highlands Up There

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Keeping Highlands Up There

Article excerpt

Sarah Gunderson makes solid contact and hits a long fly ball to right field.

The Northern Highlands senior pitcher already had lifted her team's offense by hitting a solo home run Monday over the left- field fence two innings earlier in a 6-0 win over Teaneck.

But this time, the ball settles into the right fielder's glove.

As Gunderson runs back to the dugout, she yells to the Highlanders' next batter, Fiona Walley.

"Come on Fi, pick me up!"

Never discouraged, but always encouraging.

The Rhode Island-bound Gunderson has been swinging a hot bat all season, and hitting for average and power. She's been outstanding in the circle, routinely shutting down lineups and racking up double- digit strikeout performances.

And she's been a leader for a younger Northern Highlands team, one that started the season with some new faces in new positions yet faces high expectations following last season's team winning the Bergen County title.

No softball player in North Jersey may be more important to her team than Gunderson.

"I feel like I have to set a good example for these kids," she said. "Before, we had the leaders there. We had our six seniors that eventually left. I felt like I really had to pick it up and bring up my leadership for these girls.

"I hope that I'm doing a good job for them, because they're doing a great job out here."

Gunderson took over in the circle full time following the graduation of Katie Duncan, who is pitching at Harvard.

The Highlanders also lost Christine Griffith, their leadoff hitter and All-Bergen County shortstop; as well as Megan O'Donnell, Nicole Gattoni and Caroline Lovisolo - all big contributors to a 24- 4 campaign.

So, this season there were some early struggles.

Northern Highlands faced three strong teams in Indian Hills, Ridgewood and NV/Demarest in the first days of this spring. The Highlanders, now ranked No. 15 in The Record Top 25, began 1-3.

But Gunderson helped her team overcome that slow start. Northern Highlands was 4-3 entering Tuesday, and earned a signature victory Friday by defeating No. …

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