On a softball diamond in Little Falls, the present met the future, and while the more experienced team found a way to win, the upstarts made a statement of its own, as well.
DePaul won its record seventh straight Passaic County Tournament championship in an exciting game, in Little Falls, 3-2, on May 14, but Passaic Valley’s young core showed it’s ready to not only contend for, but win the crown in the years to come.
It was DePaul’s 12th county championship, also a record, while PV was looking for its first title in 30 years, when current head coach Kathy Hill (nee May) had paced the Hornets to back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988.
While PV’s youth made a statement with some exceptional at bats and good fielding plays, senior pitcher Alyssa Bernardo was also marvelous. She pitched a complete game, four hitter, got stronger as the game went on, didn’t walk a batter and also didn’t allow an earned run.
“You can’t do much better,” said a disappointed but proud Hill afterward. “Alyssa was tremendous. We made a few mistakes in the field, and we’ll need to learn from that. I also know these kids will bounce back from this. They love playing this game, I love coaching them, and we’ll be back to work tomorrow.”
The game was supposed to be played at Back Beach Park on the evening of May 14. But the field at Back Beach wasn’t going to be ready for play by game time, due to last weekend’s rain, so it looked like the game would be pushed back a few more days.
Passaic Valley’s athletic director, Rob Carcich, offered his field for the championship game, since last Monday’s weather was beautiful, and scheduling a game later in the week, with the state tournament nearing and questionable weather coming up, could have been tenuous.
If there was any trepidation about playing in a big game, the Hornets quickly dispelled that in the top of the first when Bernardo gave up a one-out single, but then got out of the frame when freshman shortstop Taylor Hill caught a line drive and threw back to first for a double play.
The game was scoreless until the fourth, when DePaul scored twice. The Spartans added a run in the top of the sixth, but PV would answer with a rally as the home crowd roared its approval.
With one out, Alex Ward hit a single, which was just the second hit off eventual winning pitcher Summer Ramundo. Rachel Sol had one of the game’s best at-bats, fouling off nine pitches before drawing a walk. Devyn DiPasquale singled to the load the bases and Shana Donnelly followed with a huge two-run single, cutting the deficit to 3-2.
Ramundo would work out of further damage in the sixth, but in the seventh, PV would put the potential winning runs on base as Hill and Jada Rodriguez each singled with one out. But again, Ramundo, a senior, showed her mettle, by retiring the final two hitters to end the game.
Passaic Valley (13-6) won’t have time to dwell on the setback. The Hornets are the third seed in the NJSIAA tournament, in North 1, Group 3, and will host Morris Hills, in the first round on May 17.
“We look ahead,” said Kathy Hill. “That’s what we do. I was proud of the way this team battled back, down 3-0. They gave a good effort.”