Nutley coach Luann Zullo had said all season how much this year’s senior base was an incredible group to work with.
A 23-7 season was concluded in the state sectional semifinal, as the Raiders lost an 8-4 decision to Middletown South, the defending Group 3 champions. Nutley led, 4-3, heading into the seventh, before Middletown South tied it. Nutley pitcher Emily Holden did a tremendous job of working out of additional trouble in the seventh, getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation, by yielding just the one run.
But when Nutley was unable to score in the bottom of the seventh, Middletown South took over in the eighth, scoring four times and winning, 8-4, behind the gutsy pitching of Maddy McMahon, who struck out 12 and worked out of numerous tough situations with key strikeouts.
“We had our chances,” said Zullo afterward. “We hit the ball hard (Nutley had 11 hits), but we made some mistakes, too, that cost us. Sometimes, it comes down to a key play, or two, and in the end, we didn’t make enough big plays.”
But getting back to those seniors, credit has to be given to the upperclassmen, especially against Middletown South. Shortstop, and leadoff batter Stefanie Ziemer, hit a clutch, two-out, go-ahead single, in the bottom of the sixth inning to give her team a 4-3 lead. The hit capped off a four-run rally after Middletown South had opened a 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning.
(As an aside, Ziemer’s tenacity was sometimes overlooked, because of her quiet disposition. But this kid never flinched, beginning in 2013, when as a freshman, she replaced a legend at shortstop, in Eileen Purcell, then losing her starting job, for a while the following year, ultimately working hard to regain the position in 2015, as Nutley won a state championship, and, this year, turning into one of the team’s key players. A tremendous competitor, and an even better young woman, Stefanie will be attending Monmouth University, this fall).
Third baseman Breanna DeMaio was solid in the field, Alanis Concepcion had two hits and Danielle Pomponio, a recent member of the 100 career hit club, played another tremendous game behind the plate.
And what more can you say about Holden, who struck out the side in the first inning and pitched an excellent game?
The other seniors included Cassie Angelo and team manager, Melissa Fede.
“All great kids,” said Zullo. “I can’t say enough about how great it was to have them on this team.”
And so, another good year of softball has been concluded at Nutley.
Thanks to the seniors for making it incredible exciting.