Yeah, this one was fun.
After a winter no one within the Immaculate Heart Academy community ever wants to experience again, the season opening game for the school’s softball team signified the end of a month-long series of scrimmages, and the beginning of what should be an exciting season.
Anthony LaRezza would have been proud, not only with his team’s 2-1 win over a really good Paramus Catholic team, in Paramus, but with way his protegé, Diana Fasano coached, as well as one of his main guys, Phil Delgado, encouraging his good friend, Diana, during a tense game.
He would have loved the way Katie Kudlacik pitched like Southpaw Secretariat, striking out 12 of the first 13 batters she retired, through 4 2/3 blistering innings. He would have been thrilled with the steely resolve of another Southpaw stud, Olivia Sprofera, (Southpaw Slew), who came in with Paramus Catholic threatening to tie, or take the lead, and calmly ended the rally, then pitched two more impeccable innings, keeping PC off-balance with a good mix of fast balls and a nice off-speed pitch.
The Eagles warmed up, before the game, wearing a maroon tee-shirt, honoring their late coach. When it was time to play, the team’s jerseys had a special patch, honoring the Big Guy, with the words ‘Always In Our Hearts’ etched on the insignia.
Delgado, Montclair’s coach, was all over this game. He’s coached a number of the kids, on both IHA and PC, during the summer. He got the chance to attend, because his team doesn’t open the season until April 2, at Paramus.
“Isn’t this a great game?” he asked me, referring more to the game of softball, itself, but also saying what a quality game this was, today, as well.
“It’s kids being kids, loving the game,” Delgado continued. “It’s pure. It’s what it’s all about.”
Delgado would talk about how Newark Academy coach Sergio Rodriguez got him started in coaching, and how LaRezza helped Sergio get started, and how Delgado hopes to help another young coach one day.
“It’s what Anthony always wanted,” Delgado said. “This is what he built. Look at Diana over there, coaching like crazy. A lot of people probably never saw that side of her, but she’s intense. I’ve been on the other side of that wild look. Watch her, she’ll be all over them, encouraging and making sure they stay focused. And look at this crowd. They’re fired up, on both sides. Beautiful day, high quality softball….what else could you ask for?”
When Sprofera came in to relieve Kudlacik, Delgado was quick to analyze.
“Man, you go from Secretariat to Seattle Slew,” he said, using my horse racing analogy. “That’s tough for any team to handle. Katie’s throwing gas, then Olivia has a great fastball, too, but she can dazzle you with that breaking ball. That’s tough. One day, Katie starts, then another day, it’s Olivia. Two horses like that, it’s scary.”
There’s going to be a lot of emotions, especially in the early going, for IHA. The home opener is on April 4, and that will assuredly bring a lot of sentiments that may have been bottled up.
The Anthony LaRezza Tournament will be held for two days, at IHA, on April 9 and 10.
“We need to get through the first 10 days,” said Fasano, who after cheering every pitch in the seventh inning, seemed to reflect for a few moments, before taking part in the handshake line. “We’ll be okay, but obviously, this is all new.”
Fasano’s intensity was perfect LaRezza. The only thing she didn’t do was throw a scorecard in the air, in disgust.
Yes, the Big Guy would have been happy to see (Former President) Reagan Jones, who scored the last run of the 2015 season, in a 1-0 win for the state championship, hit a seeing-eye, infield single, and then scored her team’s first run in 2016. He would have been pleased with the way Reese Guevarra (Sunday Silence) approached every at-bat with a crazy urgency.
Emilie Cieslak played another solid first base, and Taylor Kenerson with her usual savvy self at shortstop.
He would have liked the opportunistic way his team played, on the road.
Yup, that was a lot of fun.