For the second straight year, there was a lot of tension for the Central Catholic softball team as the regular season wound down.
A year ago, the slow-starting Raiders were struggling with a 6-8 record before surging to the playoffs and finishing 13-9. And this year, they were sub-.500 much of the season and then had to win their last two games to barely make the tournament with a 10-10 record.
It’s not a comfortable way to make the tournament and, one would think, not that enjoyable. But for senior centerfielder Sarah Janco, it was almost a desired positive and certainly a source of inspiration.
“I love the pressure of fighting back,” said Janco. “It fired me up that we had to win. When we were 8-10, I had so much energy. I didn’t want to have that record but it motivated me.”
Apparently so because in the decisive last regular season game, Janco was 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs and, over the last three games prior to the tourney, she was 5 for 10. Then she added two hits Thursday, giving her an impressive 100 for her career in just three years as the Raiders won their first tournament game, 5-1 over Concord-Carlisle.
Of course, Janco is more than fine at the plate regardless of the situation. After playing JV as a freshman, she burst onto the scene as as sophomore, hitting .535, and hit .416 as a junior with four home runs and 29 RBIs. She entered the tourney this year with a .449 average and four home runs.
What’s more, Janco is at her best against the top pitchers. She had a triple off of Burlington standout Christina Clark and a pair of triples against Dracut ace Rylie White.
At the same time, Janco has been a vacuum in center field while covering a ton of ground and, over the years, has also played right field, third base, first base and second base. She’s been a rock for head coach Stacey Ciccolo.
“She is definitely the best centerfielder in the league and she has played five positions for me when necessary,” said Ciccolo. “In my 16 years at Central, she’s definitely one of my top all-around players.”
Janco has clearly shown that she can play with the best players around but she’s not positive if she’ll continue with softball or her second love volleyball next year when she attends Salem State and majors in psychology. She did both sports with distinction at Central and also competed in indoor track as a high jumper.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do next year,” said Janco. “I’m going to wait and see how it feels this summer not doing a sport. I’ve been doing sports year-round for so long, I want to take a little break.
“But I feel I’ll probably go out for a sport (at Salem State). I just love being active. I’m not the type who can stand around and not do something.”
She’s certainly done plenty at Central Catholic, and particularly when the pressure has been on.