Verona had opened the season slowly, losing six of its first seven contests. But that was a bit deceiving, as the Hillbillies lost three games by one run each, including a pair of 2-1 setbacks to the best teams in Essex County, in Cedar Grove and Mount St. Dominic. Verona also lost two games by two runs each.
But after the 1-6 start, Verona has gotten back on the winning trail, with four straight victories, including a 5-1 win on April 24, at Bloomfield, in a Super Essex Conference American Division matchup.
“Bloomfield always has a good team,” said Verona coach Angela Salisbury. “You know how it is in this division, every game is a battle. I think we showed we’re capable of playing well in the division. We haven’t seen West Essex yet, because of rainouts, but we’ll play them soon, and I’m looking forward (to a crossover game) with Columbia. They’re playing really well, too.”
Verona will stay in games, first and foremost, behind the pitching of right hander, Christina Colon. The junior had another outstanding game against Bloomfield, with 14 strikeouts and 2 walks, while scattering just 3 hits.
“Christina has been doing a nice job,” said Salisbury. “She throws strikes and has good velocity.”
Colon opened the regular season with a no-hitter, striking out 17 in a 1-0 home victory, against Bloomfield, in mid 30 degree temperatures, on April 5. She has struck out 10, or more, in six of her last seven games, including back-to-back 14 strikeout efforts in less than 24 hours, against Nutley and Bloomfield. In a tournament on April 21, she fanned a combined 22 batters in two games.
Verona (5-6) put itself in position for a possible top four seed in the upcoming Essex County Tournament with its win against Bloomfield on April 24. The Hillbillies opened a 3-0 lead in the second inning when Katie Stanisci led off with a walk and stole second. After a strikeout, Colon laced a single to move Stanisci to third. A stolen base and walk to Kate Ryan loaded the bases and Julia Rigney hit a two-run single to give her team a 2-0 lead. With two outs, leadoff batter Carlie Goldstein drilled a single to plate a third run.
Bloomfield (5-6), which had won four in a row, scored its only run off Colon in the third. Verona got that run back in the fifth when Caden Pelfree singled home Melanie Naeris, who had led off the frame with a single. Pelfree had another RBI in the seventh, when she hit a long ground rule double, which bounced over the centerfield fence, plating Annie Swanstrom, who had reached on an error to start the inning.
Colon struck out the side in the third and fifth innings and ended the game with a strikeout.
Verona has two big home games coming up. On April 26, Columbia visits, at 4 p.m. and two days later, there’s the first of two games against division rival West Essex, at 10 a.m., and on April 30, there’s a short drive for a big game with arch rival Cedar Grove.
Verona is also the sight of the Essex County Tournament quarterfinals. This will be the first time since 2009 that the county quarterfinals will be held at one location.