Grace Fagan and Danielle Dominik have been close friends since preschool.
Even more than their love of softball, they're linked by their dedication to the sport, the time they've put into it — their pursuit to "build their toolbox," as Dominik calls it.
Fagan is headed to Mississippi State to continue her softball career next season and Dominik recently committed to Monmouth.
Entering their senior seasons for Kingsway, the two were set to be a formidable one-two punch. And if you ask them, that's still true — for the most part.
Fagan, one of the country's most highly regarded pitching prospects, is likely to miss the entire season as she recovers from a wrist injury.
Taking her place in the circle will be Dominik. She'll have big shoes to fill, but the owner of those shoes will be next to her in the dugout, supporting her through a season that still has high hopes.
The dynamic on the field will be different for a Kingsway team that also features a strong freshman class set to make an immediate impact.
But what won't change — according to Fagan and Dominik — is the leadership and the example the two set off the field, the culture of Kingsway softball.
"When I first found out about [Fagan's injury], it was tough. But I'm glad she can be there. She's already been there for a few scrimmages and she's kept the book, cheers me on — and that's great to see. Having someone like that supporting just gives me that much more confidence in myself," Dominik said. "And we want to be able to set that example — to show the rest of the girls what being a good teammate is about."
Added Fagan: "That's why it's so important for me to stay involved. There are a lot of younger players on varsity this season, and I'm hoping that I can help in any way that I can. I obviously wish I was out on the field. But if I can't be, I want to be able to help in any way that I can."
As a junior, Fagan posted a 1.14 ERA while striking out 316 batters in 166 innings.
While not as much of a power pitcher as her friend, Dominik — an infielder by trade who batted .462 with 11 home runs last season — has seen her share of success in limited action as a pitcher for Kingsway.
She filled in for Fagan in the circle at several points during last season, including a big late-season win over rival Clearview.
Dominik said she welcomes the challenge of being the team's No. 1 pitcher. And she has firsthand knowledge that a move like this isn't unprecedented at Kingsway.
Her sister, Kelsey, one of the top players in recent South Jersey history, also filled in as a pitcher in her senior season in 2012.
The result was a season for the ages: She batted .457 with a 1.025 slugging percentage, with hit 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. In the circle, she was 27-4 with a 0.65 ERA, one perfect game, two no-hitters, 13 shutouts, and 284 strikeouts while leading her team to an appearance in the state championship.
"My sister stepped up her senior year — and I'm hoping to follow her example," Dominik said. "I've always looked up to her. And she made it to states, and that's what I want. …
"And I feel like if we all come together as a team, we can go even further and win the state championship."
The biggest thing that links the Dominik sisters is their work ethic, instilled in them by their father, Dave, who has served as the team's head coach since the retirement of Tony Barchuk in 2016.
"I feel optimistic about the season; we obviously didn't want to lose someone like Grace," Dave Dominik said. "But she can still help us, even if it's just when Danielle comes off the field — even if it's just conversation, it's still learning for both of them."
Danielle Dominik said the team's success this season starts with hard work. She led the team through Crossfit workouts in the offseason. And, as she has been her entire career, she's putting extra time in before and after practice heading into the season.
It's all part of the culture that the Dominik family has helped establish at Kingsway.