While watching Livingston win a second straight NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 title on May 31 in Livingston, West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori gave a clear assessment of Livingston senior pitcher Jess Peslak.
“She is so tough,” Mondadori said of the pitcher I like to call ‘Secretariat’. “I don’t think people realize how much she’s been through this season. She’s been hurting, but she’s always out there. Teams might get a few hits off her, but when she needs to bear down, she gets it done. Plain and simple.”
Mondadori should know, since her team has faced Livingston five times over the past two seasons.
“And you have to credit (Livingston head coach) Jason (Daily),” Mondadori said. “Those kids play great defense, and they just hit and hit. And don’t give them extra outs, or you’re really in trouble.”
Which brings the conversation back to Peslak, who pitched a complete game as Livingston defeated Morris Knolls, 11-3. Peslak was also 2-for-2 at the plate with two RBI. It was a second straight trifecta for Livingston, as the Lancers won the Super Essex Conference, Essex County Tournament and state sectional title for a second straight season.
As coaches like to call outstanding players, Peslak is a stud. (Thus the Secretariat moniker).
Morris Knolls scored all three of its runs against Peslak in the fourth inning, which pulled the Morris County school to within 4-3. But true to Livignston’s character, it came right back, scoring a run in the last of the fourth on a RBI triple by ‘Seattle Slew’, Kyle McLaughlin, then adding six runs in the bottom of the fifth with some of the craftiest base running and bunting you’ll ever see, which broke the game open.
And all Peslak did was blank Morris Knolls over the last three innings to negate any type of rally.
“We still have two games left,” Peslak was quick to remind anyone who was within earshot afterward. “Two more games.”
Livingston will face Watchung Hills, the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 champ, in a Group 4 semifinal on June 4 in Nutley. The winner of that game faces the Washington-Hillsborough victor on June 8 in Toms River for the group championship.
Peslak’s tenacity in the circle this season may not have yielded the same numbers as last year, but she’s probably a more complete pitcher in 2013, simply because, like Mondadori said, she hasn’t been fully healthy. A hip pointer, hamstring pulls and more recently back spasms have ‘slowed’ her, if you will, even when she records double figures in strikeouts on a still consistent basis.
“I was a little sore today,” Peslak said. “But I’ll be fine. A little ice and I’m ready for the next game.”
She is also quick to credit her team for the 25-3 record the Lancers have put together, including 19 straight victories.
“This is all about my teammates,” Peslak said. “They’re great. They’re always there for me when I’m in the circle. I don’t feel like I have to strike everyone out, and I can adjust to what the umpires are giving me, because I know the defense will be there.”
And so, the Lancers will prepare for a state semi, then hopefully, on the same day as the Belmont Stakes will be run in New York City, Livingston will have Secretariat in the circle for that final game, a shot at a Group 4 title.