The high school softball season is down to the last week, and Essex County has three teams still in the mix for a state championship.
Livingston (25-3) won the NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 title for the second straight year by defeating Morris Knolls, 11-3, in the title game on May 31. While the score might indicate a blow out, the game was far from it. More on that shortly.
In Non-Public A, Mount St. Dominic (25-6) won a classic, rallying from 4-0 down to defeat Paramus Catholic, 5-4, in nine innings. The Mount will take on the state’s top-ranked team, Immaculate Heart Academy, on June 4 for the North Non-Public A championship at Ivy Hill Park in Newark, beginning around 7 p.m.
Head coach Lorenzo Sozio’s team last played for the championship in 2009, when it lost a close game to IHA. In 2008, IHA also edged MSDA for the North Non-Public A title.
And, in Non-Public B, Newark Academy (22-7) will seek its first North Non-Public B title when it takes on top-seeded Lodi Immaculate on June 4 at Ivy Hill, in a 4 p.m. start. The Minutemen, who have already set the school record for wins in a season, advanced by defeating Oak Knoll, 10-4.
Livingston never trailed in its game against an old-time rival in Morris Knolls. It lead 4-0 heading into the fourth before Knolls scored three times.
“We’ve played Morris Knolls enough over the years to know that a 4-0 lead wouldn’t be enough,” Livingston coach Jason Daily said. “Those kids played hard, they’re well coached and go after it. Our kids showed the same tenacity. We took advantage of opportunities, too, and were able to get some key runs late.”
Livingston answered Morris Knolls’ charge by scoring once in the bottom of the fourth, then broke the game open in an usual way in the fifth. Morris Knolls had retired the first batter and appeared to have the second out when Yinka Fasehun was struck out. But on the third strike, the ball eluded the catcher and Fasehun took off for first and was safe.
The play was huge because eventually, Fasehun would score for Livingston with some tremendous base running before coming around on a fielder’s choice.
“That play was huge,” Daily said. “If she’s out there, it’s two outs and on one on.”
Instead, Livingston would score six runs in the inning as its team speed was evident.
Livingston’s defense also came up big. In the first, leftfielder Cate Leu made a splendid catch of a drive to snuff out a Knolls rally. Third baseman Katie Horiuchi and shortstop Sammi Rothenberger turned some huge put outs at third on fielder’s choices which kept Morris Knolls at bay in its best inning, the fourth.
And the play of Rachel Wasilak can never be overlooked. Her defense was superb while Wasilak’s three hits were key to the win.
There are many who say Wasilak is Livingston’s best player, and it’s hard to disagree. (See recent feature on her. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/livingstons-wasilak-a-study-of-softball-intellect-and-a-love-for-the-game).
Mount St. Dominic showed its usual character by rallying back to defeat Paramus Catholic, 5-4. The Lions trailed the Paladins, 4-0, in the third before Katie Johnson hit a RBI triple and later scored. The Mount tied it in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Helena Bissell and Ally Dabroski’s run-scoring double.
In the ninth, freshman Liz Crowell drove in the winning run with a single to seal the win. Sam Platt was the winning pitcher in relief, hurling 6 2/3 innings and scattering five hits while giving up one earned run.
Like MSDA, Newark Academy also faced an early deficit, but the Livingston-based school broke it open with a five-run fourth inning to erase a 4-1 Oak Knoll lead. The Minutmen led 6-4 after four, then added three more in the fifth and one in the sixth.
Courtney Luing had a bases-loaded triple in the fourth while Lauren Catena was 3-for-5 with three RBI. Newark Academy had 12 hits in the game.