Mount St. Dominic Academy’s 5-4 setback to Livingston in the championship game of the 36th Essex County Tournament was merely a blip on the scoreboard.
Another words, the Mount scored one less run, but there were no losers in this game.
This was softball at a high level, with players battling for every pitch, every swing and every out. The coaches even got caught up in the emotion, questioning more than a few calls, because both knew how critical a close call would come to possibly deciding the game.
But in the end, this was what competition should represent, and Mount St. Dominic made it clear from the first batter that it was here to play. After losing twice to Livingston in the regular season by a combined 17-5, the Mount was ready tonight.
We learned what an outstanding hitter Katie Johnson is, what a determined competitor Sam Platt has always been, was introduced, again, to the tenacity of Ashley Kowalski, the durability of Alexis Havrilla, the pure toughness of Gabby Lombardi and the coming out party of Olivia Gemma, who launched as clutch a homer as you’ll ever see in the ECT semifinals against Cedar Grove, then took Jess Peslak of Livingston to the limit in the championship game.
Gemma is what most coaches reference a standout player. She’s a stud. (Now we have to find a good stud name for her. Maybe IHA coach Anthony Larezza can help out here?)
And please allow me to say a word about Johnson, who I’ve known since she was about 3 years old. At the time, I worked at Caldwell College and Katie would come to work with her dad, Dean Johnson, and hang out with me in my Sports Information Director’s office, with her juice box, telling me stories and asking why I liked the football team with those silly orange helmets.
I remember covering her first high school game on April 1, 2010, when she had the game-winning hit as the Lions beat Cedar Grove, 6-4, in the opening game of the season. At times, she struggled to find a position, but in her junior year, she began to come around and earned All County honors. Now, as a senior, she’s firmly established as a standout high school player, who will attend Central Connecticut State University this fall and continue her athletic career.
It’s amazing how time flies.
Mount St. Dominic will be a tough out in the upcoming NJSIAA Tournament. Just ask Livingston coach Jason Daily.
“They’re just a tremendous team,” Daily said after the ECT final. “Those kids can flat out play. I’m glad we had a game like this, because it will only help us, too. We’ve had some tremendous games with them.”
We can only hope to see a Mount St. Dominic-Immaculate Heart Academy title game in North, Non-Public A.
That could be another classic.
Thanks, MSD, for being true champions, with the collective heart of the school’s moniker.