Six games may not define an entire season, but Columbia’s 6-0 start has been impressive.
The Cougars’ latest win was a 13-1 triumph over Super Essex Conference Liberty Division rival Newark Academy, in Livingston, on April 20, in 5 innings. And while Columbia head coach Cliff Smith knew it was just one game, Smith was also hoping his team’s good start would coincide with next week’s seeding selections for the 41st Essex County Tournament.
“I’d like to think we could get a high seed,” said Smith. “But we can’t worry about that, as much as continuing to work hard. Right now, the kids are having fun and they were excited to play Newark Academy today. We have two games at a tournament at Gov. Livingston (on April 21) and a big conference game with Montclair (on April 23). If we keep playing well, we’ll be okay.”
Despite the score, all the runs came in the span of one inning. Newark Academy (3-3), which came in with a 3-game winning streak, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on back-to-back doubles, but Columbia charged back in the top of the third, by scoring 13 times. The rally began on a leadoff homer by sophomore second baseman Alexa Stephan, as the ball sailed over the left centerfield fence to tie the game.
“She hit it well,” said Smith of Stephan, who later left the game after being hit on the elbow by a pitch. “At first, I didn’t think it was going out, but it kept traveling. I like the way our kids rally back after falling behind. This was a strange game, in that you don’t normally score the way we did in one inning. Newark Academy is a good team. We were able to capitalize with some good hitting and some walks, and next thing you knew, we had a big lead.”
Columbia coach Cliff Smith and Alexa Stephan following the Cougars win at Newark Academy on April 20. (Click on photo for larger image)
Alexa’s older sister, Jordan Stephan followed with a double and Ally Krause singled. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and winning pitcher Catherine John singled in a run. Paige Carlson walked to load the bases and Cara Harrington and Claire Salinardo walked to force home a pair of runs. Hudson Hassler singled in a run and Sophie Goldman had the biggest hit in the frame, a 3-run double. Carlson later singled in another run in the inning.
John scattered two hits, struck out eight and walked just one in five innings.
Alexa Stephan’s aggressive play has led to more than her share of black and blues, including her elbow, when she was hit by a pitch.
“She battles,” said Smith. “Hopefully, she’ll be okay.”
Newark Academy third baseman Sam Burggraff made a tremendous catch in the game, running toward the fence on the third base line and hauling in a pop foul right before the ball hit the fence.
On the other side of town, Livingston and Nutley played another nail biter. This time, it was Nutley which won an 8-inning game, 4-3, over the Lancers. Six days earlier, Livingston had gone into Nutley and won a 7-4 game, in extra innings.
The Raiders improved to 4-4 with the win and will play a huge game, against West Essex, on April 21, at home, starting at 1 p.m.
Bloomfield won for the third time in its last four games, defeating Dayton High, 10-0, at The Pond, on April 20. After an 0-4 start, the Bengals are now 3-5.
The Bengals got a much needed win today. (Thanks again, to Jerry Simon. Click on photo for larger image)