MIDDLETOWN – Last season Middletown North softball captured the North Jersey Section 2 Group III title with 4-1 victory over Governor Livingston, and head into this season back in a deep Central Jersey Group III and realigned into the Shore Conference B North division.
Middletown North did lose a lot of firepower from last season due to graduation, but the one constant from their title run is their ace in the circle, senior Malori Bell. Bell finished 2018 as a first-team All-State hurler who won 21 games and struck out 312,  as well as batted .427 with 33 RBI.  
“We are super excited to see what the season has in store for us. We did lose a lot with the seniors that graduated last season but with the seniors we have this year and underclassmen, we see a lot of great potential for the season,” said Bell of the upcoming season.
Sharing the heavy load of getting the Lions another state title are senior Adrian Cerbo who finished last season an All-Group III second-team selection and senior Cara McNulty. Cerbo finished last season with a .348 batting average, 22 RBI and 24 runs scored.  McNulty finished with a .380 batting average, 23 RBI and 29 runs scored.  
“2019 is going to be another big year for us and we are looking forward to getting the season started to see where we are at,” added Cerbo.
2018 was a great run the Lions, who went 25-6 with four players batting over .400 and eight players in double figures for RBI.  But it was the hot arm of Bell that paved the way for Middletown North to make their deep run in the NJSIAA Tournament and will look to their ace once again this season.  The righty hurler threw an impressive 186 innings last season and allowed just 39 earned runs and 43 walks.  
Middletown North will get their chance early to prove themselves as they take on a tough  division schedule that includes two games against Saint John Vianney, Colts Neck, Matawan, Wall, Ocean, Neptune and Red Bank Regional. The game most are looking forward to as a barometer to see where they are is against the Lancers on April 16.  There is no disrespect to the other teams, but the team knows SJV is the team to beat.
The Lions have jumped out to a quick start with back-to-back, no-hit shutout wins for Bell.  
Middletown North opened the season against Neptune and made quick work of the Scarlet Fliers winning, 14-0, on 17 hits and four-RBI performances from senior Jacey Tammaro and sophomore Ava Turner. McNulty added three hits, while Bell, Ashley Kofsky and Turner each added two hits.  But it was Bell who took the headlines with her opening-day complete-game no-hit shutout, which included 13 K’s, while allowing just one base runner on a walk.
Next up was a pitcher’s duel against Matawan and sophomore Alyssa Eimont who won 14 games as a freshman. The game did not disappoint, as the two aces combined for 24 strikeouts and just one earned run, as Middletown North topped the Huskies, 3-0.  Bell finished with her second no-hitter – this time a perfect game – on 14 strikeouts over seven innings. Though Middletown North was held to just seven hits, they scratched out a run per inning over the first three innings. It was Turner once again with the hot bat, driving in two runs.
Middletown has already seen that they are going to have to manufacture runs from all over their lineup and use small ball to win the tight games.  Singles, steals, walks and smart plate appearances will be the game plan, according to head coach Chris Hoffman, who believes this team can stay focused and hungry. 
The Lions have a tough April schedule including non-conference games against Northern Burlington, Livingston and Westfield.