SPARTA, NJ - With Pope John and DePaul scoreless going into extra innings, a single base hit was going to end one season, while prolonging another into next week at the same time.
Thanks to Toni Santonastasso, the Lions’ softball season is anything but finished.
The junior first baseman’s base hit to center field in the bottom of the eighth inning drove in the only run of the game, lifting Pope John to a 1-0 victory over the visitors from Wayne in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA North, Non-Public A Tournament, Wednesday afternoon at Prettyman Field. Pope John will likely play top-seeded Immaculate Heart in the semifinals at some point after Memorial Day Weekend.
“I got an inside pitch I was waiting for and drove it to the outfield,” said Santonastasso after the game. “We all just want to keep playing softball as long as we can.”
Pope John (21-9) leadoff hitter Julia Engdahl laced a single into left field to start the home side of the eighth, and advanced to second base a batter later when Alyssa Bolger successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt. A strikeout of Kaylee Powers by standout Spartans pitcher Ashley LaGuardia (L, 11-2) preceded set up Santonastasso’s two-out heroics.
But before going into the extra frame, each team had opportunities to score. DePaul had first and second with one away when third baseman Christina Marinaro alertly fielded a ground ball, stepped on the bag, and completed the double play by recording a force at second base to end the threat.
DePaul’s Jacque Gentile made it half way to home in the top of the third, but were unable to break the ice.
The Spartans, who finished their Passaic County championship campaign at 15-7, had a golden chance to score in the bottom of the sixth. Natasha DuPlain was able to reach first base on a passed ball after being struck out by Lions ace Mary Adams (W, 13-3) and promptly stole second base. Two batters later, the visitors’ Christina Martinez singled into right field. But Pope John right fielder Mary Ullmann was able to throw DuPlain out at the plate, aided by a superb tag from catcher Kaitlyn Morrison.
“It’s never easy for us. (DePaul) is a good team and (North) Non-Public A is a very tough section. But that’s why we play a grueling non-conference schedule and also play in a great softball conference,” explained Pope John head coach Frank Canning.
Pope John’s best opportunity before Santonastasso’s game-winner came in the bottom half of the same inning, when Powers was able to reach second base with only one away after a single. However, LaGuardia recovered to Santonastasso and Marinaro to ground out and pop out to short, respectively.
Pope John, which four days ago was crowned H/W/S Tri-County Champions, will look to continue its run and advance to its first appearance the sectional final round of the tournament in softball next week.
The box score:
DePaul (15-7): 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0- 0 4 1
Pope John (21-9): 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1- 1 8 1
Runs: (PJ) Julia Engdahl.
RBI: (PJ) Toni Santonastasso.
WP: (PJ) Mary Adams (13-3) LP: (D) Ashley LaGuardia (11-2)
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