SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The Cedar Grove softball team is headed back to the Essex County Tournament finals to defend their title following a 12-1 beat down of Livingston on Friday.

    “We did a good job with the bats today, they scored first on us, but as I always tell the team you have to score runs to win and we did,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach Nikki Velardi.

    Cedar Grove came out of the gates clicking on all cylinders offensively. A five run bottom of the first predicated on timely hitting and aggressive baserunning was the formula for success for the Panthers.

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    “We played amazing today, everyone did their part,” said Gianna Kubu.

    Kubu was a key part in the five run first inning as she notched the game’s decisive blow with a two run single. Kubu had a monster day at the plate accounting for four of the teams 12 runs on the night in addition to three hits.

    “The whole team was up, the energy you just felt it in every at bat and you felt it and I tried to pull that into my at bats,” said Kubu.

    In addition to Kubu, fellow junior Alyssa Coletta had a solid night at the plate. Coletta added two runs scored and a pair of rbi’s herself. Coletta has driven in a run in three straight games for the Panthers.

    “[Coletta] had a great game, she’s swinging the bat well for us,” said Velardi.

    While the two juniors were standouts on the evening the Panther offense as a whole has decided to show up during the crucial part of the season. This is the third straight game with eight or more runs for the Panthers as eight different players crossed home plate against Livingston on Friday.

    “One through sixteen that goes from all the bench players we have coming in the game and stepping up that is huge for us,” said Velardi.

    Cedar Grove will advance for a date on Saturday with Mount St. Dominick Academy to try and go for their sixth title in school history. The game will be a feeling of Déjà vu as the two teams will rehash last season’s title game where Cedar Grove emerged victorious with a 1-0 victory.

    “It’s not going to be an easy one, you have to come out ready to play it’s going to be a tough matchup, but I think if we play with heart and just a drive we can do something big tomorrow,” said Velardi.