There’s no other way to describe Mount St. Dominic’s run to a second straight Essex County Tournament softball championship.
The Lions didn’t just do it with the usual great pitching by sophomore righty, Kelsey Oh. They did it with a stellar defensive presence, timely hitting to a magnitude not seen that often on the high school level, and a presence that speaks volumes about overcoming any adversity.
On the few occasions that MSD has actually trailed in a game, they’ve rallied back with laser precision. And on May 25, the 38th Essex County Tournament championship was sealed with a first inning for the ages.
Head coach Lorenzo Sozio’s team actually trailed second seeded West Essex, 1-0, heading into the bottom of the first. Seemingly hours later (it wasn’t that long), the Mount had a 12-1 lead before West Essex batted again.
The win marked the second time the Lions had won back-to-back county titles (it first happened in 2008 and 2009) and this year’s championship was the sixth in the program’s history, all since Sozio became head coach in 1996. Only Caldwell, with 10, has won more. This year also marked the eighth time in the last nine seasons that MSD has appeared in the ECT final.
She may be called ‘Real Quiet‘ in this blog, referencing a stud race horse from a few years back, but MSD senior Ally Dabroski, the lone upperclassman on the roster (how scary is that for 2016?) was 3-for-3 in her usual leadoff role, and once again, personified winning at the highest level.
When her high school career concludes (hopefully for MSD fans on June 6), she will leave with a legacy of winning that already includes two ECT titles, a pair of SEC championships and a state title in 2014.
The kid is a winner, no ifs, ands, or buts.
And a younger core of players, starting with Oh, a thoroughbred who combines speed and good movement to overwhelm hitters at times, should keep the Lions at, or near the top, in 2016 and beyond.
Even though MSD won last year’s championship, 10-0, there was no comparison to what the fans saw this year.
“They’re the best team I’ve seen in my years of coaching,” said Livingston coach Jason Daily, whose Lancers played a pretty competitive game against the Lions in the semifinals. “They do everything right. Just amazing. And forget what people may say about Kelsey’s throwing hard but not a lot of movement. Are you kidding? She has superb stuff.”
MSD (29-1 after a state tourney victory on May 26) had lost some key players from last year’s Triple Crown (ECT, SEC and NJSIAA) champions. Nevertheless, many will say this year’s team may be better. Just watching them play defense was intoxicating. Ground balls are handled effortlessly. The ensuing throws from second, short, or third base, to first are pinpoint accurate.
At the plate, all nine batters will hit for power, but can also play small ball effectively.
Before Sozio and his staff will acknowledge any kind of coronation, there’s the matter of the state tournament. A showdown with either immaculate Heart, or DePaul, will probably decide the North, Non-Public A championship next week. And on June 6, Notre Dame, or St. John Vianney could be the South representative for the Non-Public A crown.
Those will not be easy games, and the MSD players know it. But with the way they’re currently performing, the Lions are working hard to ensure a legacy of greatness.