So, I get a call from Mike DiPiano this morning. Mike is Nutley’s assistant softball coach and as rabid a fan of the game, in general, as they come.
He was commenting on my Top 25 blog of all time moments in the Essex County softball tournament and threw in some classic homers that could be included.
Mike, of course, was referring to the 2011 ECT semifinal between Livingston and Nutley, which the Raiders won, 5-4, en route to the county championship a day later. In that game, which I have always said was one of the top 3 games I’ve ever seen, Livingston took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth and appeared in good shape with sophomore pitcher Jess Peslak throwing virutal be-be’s at the Raiders.
With two Nutley runners on base, Peslak, who would strike out 14 that day, hung a fast ball that Kristen Mattia launched over the leftfield fence for a three-run homer. Peslak would regroup and the game remained 4-3 until the bottom of the seventh, when Nutley plated a pair of runs with two outs as Lauren Iradi singled to centerfield.
Peslak (AKA Secretariat) would later say it was one of the best games she ever played in. And her team lost.
Anyway, with last night’s power surge in the ECT semis, it brought back some memories of monumental homers in the ECT. A few I can think of came in 1999 when Jill Clementi blasted a homer which rolled down the hill at Pulaski Park as Bloomfield beat Belleville, 7-1, in the finals.
In the first year the ECT was played at Ivy Hill Park, Caldwell won its final title, to date, on a walk-off homer in extra innings by Gina Capardi.
Last night, Cedar Grove took a 1-0 lead in its game against Mount St. Dominic on a solo shot by Autumn Spinella. Later, Olivia Gemma drilled a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth over the centerfield fence for Mount St. Dominic as the Lions rallied from a 2-0 deficit to eventually win the game, 4-3.
In the second semifinal, Livingston’s Kylee McLaughlin led off the bottom of the first by smacking a long drive to dead center. The ball hit the top of the fence, and by the time the Bloomfield outfielders retrieved the ball, ‘Seattle Slew’ was off to the races for an inside-the-park homer. Believe me, at Ivy Hill Park, inside-the-parkers are rare.
Later in the first Dr. Sammi Rothenberger, who clearly doesn’t like birds, hit a blast that went into the trees overlooking leftfield and probably wounded a few owls. Seriously, the ball didn’t have the height Mattia’s shot possessed in 2011, but it might have traveled a little farther, distance wise. Who knows where it ends up if the trees weren’t there.
In the fourth inning, Livingston got its third homer when ‘Princess’ Jazzy Pignatello hit one over the centerfield wall.
And if you want a little more trivia, the first homer ever hit at the new Ivy Hill Park field on Seton Hall Univesity’s campus came on March 17, 2005 in a game between Monmouth and Seton Hall University. Kristin Wilson, a Belleville High grad, hit one over the left field fence that day for Monmouth in the seventh inning of the first game of a doubleheader.
No question, the home run still carries the most memories. And as the years go by, those blasts in key games are even more monumental.