Riding a six-game winning streak, West Essex felt pretty good heading into its Super Essex Conference game against powerful Livingston on April 24.
But Kylie McLaughlin set the tone, like Seattle Slew has done so many times before, when she led off the top of the first with a single, followed by two stolen bases and a West Essex throwing error which gave Livingston, No. 1 in the FMTC Top 10, a quick 1-0 lead before a young West Essex team knew what hit it.
Four innings later, it was over early, as Livingston (10-2) scored 11 times in the fourth and ended with a 14-0 victory.
While McLaughlin was 3-for-4 with two runs scored, three stolen bases and an RBI, the Lancers also got big contributions from Ana Chambers (2-for-3, two runs scored, two RBI), Allie Beinhacker (2-for-3, two runs scored, a double and RBI) and Nina Petrillo (2-for-3, 3 RBI and a run scored).
The offensive explosion was more than enough for winning pitcher Sami Passeri, who continues to get better with each start. The junior righty scattered three hits and struck out four while walking one, which was the leadoff batter in the bottom of the first inning. A day earlier, Passeri had struck out a career high nine batters in six innings of work against Cedar Grove.
“My drop curve and change up have gotten better,” said Passeri. “With the wind today, it took me a little while to get acclimated. But once I got into a rhythm, I felt good. And I know my defense is always behind me.”
Livingston coach Jason Daily has seen a steady improvement in Passeri’s work in the circle.
“She’s becoming a complete pitcher,” said Daily, who had two-time All State pitcher in Jess Peslak doing most of the work for the last 2 1/2 seasons (2011-2013). “Sami is working hitters well, with off speed and a nice fast ball, too.”
West Essex (8-4), which starts as many as five freshmen, was clearly on its heels after Livingston had gained a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Knights committed seven errors in the game, which accounted for eight unearned Livingston runs.
Courtney Mensch, Madison Gemma and Bridget Betley had hits for West Essex.
“I know we’re young, but hopefully we learned a good lesson today,” said West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori. “We can’t give a team like that extra outs, and that’s exactly what happened, starting in the first inning. Livingston has a tremendous team, for sure, but we’re better than what we showed today. We’ll get ready for the next game.”
The ‘next game’ is on April 25, when the Knights welcome another outstanding team in Mount St. Dominic. The two teams haven’t met, yet, this season, while the Knights have already played Livingston, twice.
West Essex pitcher Sami Huetter battled throughout today’s game and was upbeat afterward.
“Just about every good pitcher has one of those days,” said Mondadori. “She’s a freshman who loves to compete. She’s already looking forward to the next game.”
Daily had a lot of praise for West Essex.
“This was a 2-0 game in the fourth inning,” said Daily, whose team is now 48-1 against Essex County teams since the start of the 2012 season. “They’ve got a lot of talent. Their leftfielder (Jenna Salluce) made a sick (meaning a very good) throw (to third baseman Rose Pezzuti) to get one of our runners tagging to third. We were being aggressive on the basepaths and their kids responded.
“This game got away from West Essex in the fourth inning, but you can bet they’ll be back.”