Livingston senior Blake Saperstein gathered her teammates around the visiting dugout at Kearny, and issued a simple directive, as her team was getting ready to bat in the top of the third inning.
“Look, a lot of us have been playing softball together since we were in 10U,” said Saperstein. “None of us want this to end today, and it’s not going to. We’re not finishing our season here. Now, let’s get going.”
The Lancers, seeded seventh in North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4, responded in a big way, scoring five runs, with two coming in on a big double by Ally (Rolls) Royce, and defeating second seeded Kearny, 8-3.
Livingston (15-11) will visit North Bergen, the third seed, in the semifinals on May 31. The winner of that game advances to the championship later next week. Livingston last won a sectional title in 2013. The Lancers were defeated in the sectional semifinals the past two seasons, losing to Roxbury in ’14 and Ridgewood, last year.
Emmy Cooney and Nina Petrillo had two hits each for Livingston. Cooney, a sophomore catcher, threw out a would-be base runner attempting to steal second in a key situation, late in the game. Kate Sheehan also drove in a run.
Livingston coach Jason Daily was his usual stoic self after the win. Wearing those dark sun glasses, he commended his team on the victory, then, when asked about the game, said simply, “it’s a win.”
The Lancers added a solo run in the fifth, then put on two insurance tallies in the seventh to win, as pitcher Sydney McCormack (Syd The Kid) tossed a complete game. Kearny (20-4) scored all its runs in the bottom of the third, after Livingston had taken the 5-0 lead. McCormack, who walked the first two in that frame, then settled down and pitched well for the remainder of the contest. She scattered eight hits.
Nutley, the defending champions in North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3, won its sectional quarterfinal, defeating Matawan, 5-1, in Nutley.
The Raiders got an excellent game from senior shortstop Stefanie Ziemer, who was 3-for-4, with three runs scored, and Breanna DeMaio, who hit two doubles and drove in a run. Winning pitcher Emily Holden (Genuine Risk) spun a one-hitter, striking out seven and walking two.
Nutley has won six straight, and has outscored its opponents, 47-6, during that run.
West Essex improved to 24-2 with its second straight 10-0 win, in the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament. The Knights last won a state sectional title in 2010, and advanced to the Group 2 state semis, where it lost to Indian Hills. Ironicially, Indian Hills will be West Essex’s opponent on May 31, in the sectional semifinals. The teams met in a regular season game on May 16, with the Knights winning, 9-4.
Sami Huetter (Canonero II) pitched another complete game for West Essex, throwing a no-hitter. She also continued her torrid hitting, with three hits. Bridget (Over Troubled Water) Betley had another huge day, with three hits.
Alexa Vardiman (Funny Cide), Julia Vardiman and Kate Jencarelli had two hits each for the red-hot Knights, which won its ninth straight game. During that run, West Essex has dominated, outscoring its opponents, 68-13.