By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
When a high school softball coach sees a really good freshman come in, one of the first questions they’ll ask that player is, ‘do you have any younger sisters?’ At the high school level, siblings with talent can really help build a program.
The Egg Harbor Township softball program doesn’t need much building these days, it’s more of maintaining the championship caliber play that Mary Dunlap built during so many seasons, including the 2017 Group 4 state championship.
Kristi Troster is in command now, and the Eagles have shown no signs of a dropoff during her tenure. She was hired prior to the 2020 season, a season that never materialized due to the covid-19 pandemic. So last year was her first “official” season as head coach, and all she did was lead the Eagles to a 19-5 record. Heading into today’s state playoff matchup against Toms River East, the Eagles are at it again. They are 21-1 and this week won the inaugural Cape-Atlantic League Tournament.
A big reason for EHT’s success this season has been the play of the Dollard sisters, Kayla and Madison. Every baseball or softball team strives to be strong up the middle, and you can’t get much stronger than having sophomore Madison Dollard inside the circle and senior Kayla Dollard — possibly the fastest player in South Jersey — roaming center field.
Want to know how fast Kayla Dollard is? She’s a lefty slapper, and in the CAL Tournament final she went 3-for-4. Two of those hits were infield singles that looked like routine groundouts. At least, they would have been with anybody else running. She also finished with three stolen bases and two runs scored as EHT beat Cedar Creek, 6-3. Her sister was just as good, striking out 10 batters in six innings to record the win.
“We’ve been playing together for I don’t even know how many years, and this is my last year playing with her. It’s been great,” Madison said.
“This means everything. This is just the start. We’re coming for states next. It’s very exciting,” Kayla said after the win over Cedar Creek. “I do get frustrated with her sometimes, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t trust anyone more.”
“Obviously, it’s fantastic having them,” Troster said. “(Kayla) makes routine plays out of very difficult balls that are hit out there. When it gets hit out there, honestly, I don’t even have a worry involved in it. I know she’s going to go track it down. She saves extra bases, she saves runs.”
Kayla has been tremendous as a leadoff batter for the Eagles. She’s batting .413 (31-for-75), has scored 28 runs, has eight RBIs, is slugging .440 and has 25 of EHT’s 71 stolen bases this year. There have only been three games all season when she hasn’t either scored a run or gotten a hit. She’s scored three runs on five occasions this season and has stolen a base in 13 of the Eagles’ 22 games.
Madison has been just as impressive. In 96-plus innings she’s allowed just 67 hits, 20 runs, only 11 earned runs and 18 walks while striking out 141 batters. She has a 0.80 earned run average. She’s struck out 10 or more batters in nine games, including a season-high 14 in a 9-0 win over OLMA on April 25. For her career so far, she has 217 strikeouts in 153 innings and has surrendered just 17 earned runs.
“Madison is really coming into her own on the mound, and she’s really young. She’s just a sophomore,” Troster said. “The two of them, I joke and say they have three things in common: blonde hair, blue eyes and they are both really competitive and good at softball. With everything else they are totally different people. They do clash at times, but, honestly, that drives them both to be better at what they do. They do support each other, and it’s very loving, but sometimes it’s a kick in the butt the other way — and that’s the support you need to get better play out of each other.”
There’s only one downside to having the Dollard sisters on the EHT roster this season: “unfortunately, this is the last year we’re going to have with the Dollard sisters,” Troster said.
The second-year coach, however, can take solace in the fact that she still has two years to go with Madison Dollard, the best pitcher in the league.
[EHT hosts Toms River East in the quarterfinals of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament today at 4 p.m. The winner faces either No. 4 GCIT or No. 12 Clearview in the semifinals on Tuesday.]
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays