DePaul softball coach Sue Parler has long gone by the theory that winning a county championship is always a new experience, regardless of how many consecutive titles her Spartans have won.
So when the final out was recorded in a scintillating 3-2 win by DePaul over Passaic Valley, on May 14, in Little Falls before a large and enthusiastic crowd, Parler wasn’t diverting from her original thought.
“We have seven seniors who are experiencing their last (county) championship,” said Parler. “And we have four freshmen who are seeing this for the first time. I’ll say it over and over, there’s always a player who will be experiencing this for the first time.”
DePaul won its record seventh straight PCT title and 12th overall, in a game that was scheduled to be played at Back Beach Park, in Wanaque, but was moved to Passaic Valley’s home field, after it was determined Back Beach wasn’t playable on May 14.
Passaic Valley athletic director Rob Carcich and his staff worked quickly to make sure the Hornets home field could accommodate the game.
“They were going to push it back to later this week,” said Carcich. “And with the state tournament about to start, and the weather not looking too good, I thought it would be good to get the game in on Monday. The weather was nice and our field was playable. I said we could host it, the county officials said okay, and here we are.”
DePaul (11-11) would need all its championship mettle to pull this game out, as a young and feisty Passaic Valley team, which was seeking its first county championship in 30 years, played well.
“This game was befitting of a final,” said Parler. “This had a little bit of everything. Good pitching, defense and tough at bats. Passaic Valley is very young, and very good.”
DePaul took advantage of a few PV errors to score all three of its runs, en route to a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. The Spartans scored twice in the top of the fourth when Dominique Coiro hit a ball to right field, which was misplayed and the speedy Coiro ended up at third. After a pop up, Kaitlin Cavanagh laced a clean single to plate Coiro and Cavanagh raced to second on a fielding miscue. Gianna DiPiano later singled Cavanagh home to make it 2-0.
Coiro would be the catalyst to DePaul’s third run in the sixth when she singled and went to second when Laila Aponte’s grounder was misplayed, putting runners on first and second. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third and winning pitcher Summer Ramundo grounded out, scoring Coiro.
Ramundo was dominant through the first five innings. She had 10 strikeouts through four, and had yielded just one hit through through five, but in the bottom of the sixth, PV broke through with two runs on three hits, including a two-run single by Shana Donnelly, which cut DePaul’s lead to 3-2. Ramundo worked out of further damage by recording a strikeout and inducing a pop up to end the frame.
In the bottom of the seventh, DePaul’s junior second baseman Alexa Juchniewicz made the defensive play of the game, when she dove to grab a hard grounder and threw the runner out by a step for a crucial first out. Jucniewicz’s play was even more noteworthy after PV got the next two runners on base, with singles.
“I thought I had a good jump on the ball,” said Juchniewicz. “It’s the seventh inning of a championship game and we all knew it was going to be tough. I’m just glad I was able to get to it.”
Ramundo would retire the final two batters, on a fly to center and a pop to short, to secure the win. For Ramundo, a senior, it was her fourth straight title.
“We’ve been here before,” said Ramundo. “I knew I had to make some adjustments in my pitching in that seventh inning. Alexa made a great play to start the inning and I was confident our defense could get the job done.”