Always with a flair for the dramatic. West Essex’s senior team captain, Lily James, made the final play of her high school career memorable.
James’ West Essex team had rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the seventh inning, at Livingston, on May 24, to take a 10-7 lead by the top of the eighth, in a Super Essex Conference American Division matchup.
Livingston had rallied back and cut the lead to 10-9. With runners on base, the next Lancers batter hit a looper that was sailing into foul territory. It looked like the ball would fall harmlessly into foul, but James had other ideas. She got a good jump on the ball from her shortstop position and hauled the ball in, behind the third base bag, for the final out of the game.
Lily’s teammates would pour onto the field and mob their captain. And an emotional James took it all in, wiping away a few tears, but smiling a lot more.
West Essex’s rally in the seventh to tie the game, 7-7, featured a big hit by James, who also scored a pair of runs. It looked like her final at-bat would be that single, but since the game went into extra innings, she got another chance at the plate in the eighth inning and reached safely again.
Lily will be graduated shortly and plans to continue playing softball at Stockton College this fall. There, she’ll see a familiar face in Sami Huetter, who was James’ teammate for three years in North Caldwell. Huetter just completed her freshman season playing at Stockton.
Another valuable senior on West Essex’s roster, Alexandra Apito, was outstanding in her final game, as well. She hit a huge double as the Knights rallied in the seventh, and finished 3-for-4 with three RBI.
Apito will attend the University of Central Florida this fall. Apito and James were a part of some tremendous West Essex teams, which won a state sectional title and Essex County championship in 2016.