West Essex and Immaculate Heart figure to play its best softball later in the season, but there’s always something special about winning on opening day, and that’s what both teams did on April 1.
West Essex spotted a good Bernards team a 3-0 first inning lead, then rallied back behind some clutch hitting and good pitching by Sami Huetter, (Canonero II) to win a 10-4 decision, in a game played on Verona High School’s beautiful new softball diamond.
Bernards set the tone when its leadoff batter reached safely in the first inning by diving into the first base bag. The Somerset County school played aggressively in opening a 3-0 lead.
West Essex chipped away, scoring twice in the third inning thanks to a clutch two-run, two-out double by Lily James, which scored Alexa Vardiman and Madison Gemma, both of whom had walked. James’ hit was actually West Essex’s first of the game.
West Essex took the lead in the fourth with four runs, as Julia Vardiman hit an RBI double, Alexa Vardiman drove in a run on a ground out and Gemma and Huetter both lined run-scoring singles. The Knights added three more unearned runs in the sixth to put the game away.
Huetter later added a long homer for the Knights, to complete a 2-for-4 game and Gemma scored two runs.
For Bernards, shortstop Caroline Baratta was outstanding at the plate, and in the field. Baratta broke a school record with a first inning single, for her 134th career hit. Baratta, who will play on the collegiate level at Marist this fall, is an outstanding defensive player, as well. (Stud tags, on the way, for sure !)
Following the West Essex game, a 30 minute drive north was in plenty of time for Immaculate Heart Academy’s season opener, at home, against Paramus Catholic.
A good-sized crowd saw a nice pitching duel between IHA’s Olivia Sprofera and Katie Kudlacik.
IHA won, 3-0, as freshman Cat Thomas made quite a debut, with a hard-earned, RBI single in the second inning. Thomas fouled off seven pitches with a 2-strike count, before driving in Sonia Sharma.
In the fifth inning, IHA added two more runs as Sunday Silence, Reese Guevarra, singled and stole second. Later in the frame, Ally Dudek came through in the clutch, hitting a two-run single that plated Guevarra and Danica Yatko to make it 3-0.
Sprofera, a senior lefty with ‘Citation‘ stud credentials, spun a five hit shutout and was her usual unflappable self.
“Both pitchers were outstanding,” said IHA coach Diana Fasano. “I thought Katie threw the ball very well and I hope she has a great season. As far as Olivia, her consistency is incredible.”
IHA will play Passaic Tech and Indian Hills later this week, before preparing for its annual tournament, which is set for April 8 and 9. This will be the second year the tourney has been played in memory of coach Anthony LaRezza.