DePaul came through with a 4-3 win over Immaculate Heart Academy in the Blue Eagles’ home opener, in Westwood. On the field, it was an exciting, well-pitched game by both teams.
Morgan O’Neill did the damage for DePaul (2-0). Just five months removed from a serious leg injury, O’Neill hit a three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning, then drove in an insurance run in the seventh, with a ground out. O’Neill then held off an IHA rally in the bottom of the seventh, after the Eagles had scored a run to make it 4-3. Sarah Siclari, who had two hits in the game for the Eagles (1-1) and drove in a pair of runs, hit a long drive to deep center that was hauled in to end the game.
Before the game, Allen LaRezza and his brother, Joe LaRezza, threw out the first pitch, to honor the memory of their younger brother, Anthony LaRezza, IHA’s late coach. St. Mary of Rutherford’s softball team, led by head coach Joelle Della Volpe, also attended the game. The St. Mary players wore pink tee-shirts, with LaRezza’s name printed on the back.
DePaul is also putting together something very nice to honor Anthony, according to its coach Sue Parler.
“We’re putting together a season-long drive, for the homers we hit, and at the end of the season, we’ll make a donation in Anthony’s name to cancer research,” said Parler. “We hit a homer today, so that will go to a good cause.”
The Eagles and Spartans have had some intense games over the years. Last season, DePaul came into Westwood and won a 2-1 decision, in a regular season, Big North United game, on April 28. IHA had defeated DePaul, earlier in the 2015 season, 15-6, in Wayne.
“We’ve had some tight games with IHA,” said Parler. “When you play a team as good as they are, you try and take advantage of any opportunities. Morgan is about 70 percent healed from a broken leg in November. She threw the ball real well today, and hit the clutch homer. It’s a good win, early in the season, but there’s a lot of games ahead.”
IHA coach Diana Fasano was disappointed, but knows better days are ahead.
“We’ve left too many runners on base (in the first two games),” said Fasano. “We left a lot on in our opening game (a 2-1 victory over Paramus Catholic) and today, too. (Starting pitcher) Olivia (Sprofera) pitched well. When you strike out 14 and allow two hits, you should win. But DePaul made plays. We’ll regroup.”
Following the game, the IHA and St. Mary players came together for a photo.
“I can’t thank you enough for being here,” Fasano said to the St. Mary players. “It’s very much appreciated.”
IHA will be preparing for the Anthony LaRezza Invitational this weekend, with wall-to-wall softball scheduled on April 9 and 10.
Here’s the schedule:
Games on Saturday, April 9:
IHA VS. MOORE CATHOLIC (NY) at 9 a.m.
SADDLE BROOK VS. RARITAN at 11 a.m.
ST. JOSEPH (CT) VS. NOTRE DAME at 1 p.m.
BUTLER VS. NOTRE DAME at 3 p.m.
Games on Sunday, April 10:
IHA VS. IMMACULATA at 9 a.m.
ST. JOHN VIANNEY VS. ROBBINSVILLE at 11 a.m.
CARAVEL ACADEMY (DE) VS. WEST ESSEX at 1 p.m.
NEWARK ACADEMY VS. JEFFERSON at 3 p.m.