MOUNTAIN LAKES _ The Mountain Lakes softball team was winless when Jessica Torch was a freshman in the spring of 2015.
The Lakers posted two victories a year later and four during Torch's junior year.
Through it all of Mountain Lakes' struggles, Torch kept hitting.
On April 26 versus Villa Walsh, Torch, the senior shortstop who resides atop the Lakers' order, rapped out two hits, including the 100th of her career - a drag bunt - and scored the decisive run when Mountain Lakes recorded a 2-0 shutout in eight innings.
"We needed baserunners. It was 0-0 in the top of the eighth," Torch said. "I hit a bunt down the third base line. It felt good to get my 100th hit, especially because we ended up winning. Scoring the winning run made it 100 times better. And to win in extra innings was really, really good."
Torch is headed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she will major in mechanical engineering and play softball. She perfected her slapping and bunting under the tutelage of Bob Pigozzi at Frozen Ropes in Pine Brook and her father, Joseph, whom she credits with changing her from righty to lefty.
As she accumulated hits, she began to realize that 100 was within reach.
"I always wanted to get it once I realized 100 hits was a significant milestone," Torch said. "We played against other teams when girls got 100 hits. It became a goal of mine. It seemed cool."
More important than personal goals has been the team's progress during her tenure. The Lakers, eyeing .500, came close, finishing 10-12 this spring. They won three of their last four games. During a seven-game stretch from April 24 through May 8, Mountain Lakes went 5-2.
"We've improved so much," Torch said after a game against Boonton on May 14. "The team has worked hard and gotten better and better."
Mountain Lakes coach Alison Preston noted that Torch, who had at least one hit in every game this season, always swung a reliable bat, not matter what the circumstances.
"For three years, Jess played on a weak team," Preston noted. "She didn't get as many at-bats as some of the other players who got 100 hits. She loves to slap and has been a great bunter. Jess is a strong all-around player."
Three times as a senior, Torch had four hits. She concluded her career with 115 hits.
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***
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