UNION, NJ – Unfortunately for the Westfield High School softball team, the third time meeting against Roselle Park this season would not end up like the first two.
The top-seeded Lady Blue Devils fell to the second-seeded Panthers, 7-1, in Wednesday night’s Union County Tournament final at Kean University.
Westfield had success against Roselle Park this year – winning 11-1 in the season opener and then again on April 17, 3-2. But just like last year’s county final between these teams, Roselle Park found a way to deliver when it counted most.
The Blue Devils (16-2) couldn’t figure out Roselle Park pitcher Madison Hummel Wednesday night. Hummel allowed just the one run on six hits while striking out six. She kept Westfield off balance for much of the night.
“She deserves all the credit today, and so does their team,” said Westfield head coach Caitlin Cheddar. “They did an excellent job and played pretty much clean defense. When they had runners on, they executed. Madi Hummel did an excellent job today against us – she really shut us down.”
Westfield defeated Rahway, Union and Cranford on the path to the final. The Blue Devils are very capable of scoring runs. But on Wednesday night, Roselle Park (16-5) was the team that was able to get timely hits.
While Westfield pitcher Michaela Hobson struck out seven, she had trouble with her command. She allowed seven hits and nine walks in addition to the seven runs.
Emma Cieslinski had the first hit for the Panthers in the second inning. Gabby Scott walked to set up two on with no out for the second seed. Hobson was able to get three straight outs to keep the game scoreless, however.
A 1-2-3 inning followed for Hummel in the bottom half of the second. Hobson had a 1-2-3 of her own in the top of the third.
With hits hard to come by early on, Westfield’s Alivia Macaluso gave the Blue Devils their first in the bottom half of the third.
Roselle Park’s fourth inning is what carried the Panthers to the title. Hummel worked a leadoff walk. Three batters later, Lexie Cieslinski struck out for the second out. The inning was far from over, however, as Madison Cieslinski had an RBI single that just stayed fair to give the Panthers a 1-0 advantage.
Luana DaLuz had a two-run double to make it 3-0 before Miranda Taveras walked in the next at-bat. Meghan Mooney’s RBI infield blooper put Roselle Park on top 4-0. Sarah Lippin’s bunt single loaded the bases, and then Hummel walked to score another run. A five-run, two-out rally proved to be the difference.
Roselle Park had the bases loaded in the fifth inning after a hit by pitch, walk and wild pitch, but Hobson got out of the jam.
The Panthers added two more runs in the seventh, when another walk scored a run and an infield base hit from Lippin made it a 7-0 game.
Westfield did show fight in the bottom half of the seventh, looking for a miraculous comeback. Genevieve Howell had a single to lead off that was nearly a home run – and probably would have been in most parks – but the high walls at Kean allowed for just a single. Hobson got on base and then Emma Pietrewicz had an RBI single to avoid the shutout. Hummel would finish out the game with the next three outs as the Panthers celebrated back-to-back county titles.
“Hummel just kept us off balance,” Cheddar said. “I don’t think we knew exactly where she was going to go next, or what she was going to do next. She’s a tough pitcher to hit.”
Westfield will now gear up for states. The Blue Devils, as the top seed, open with 16th-seeded Piscataway in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section, 2, Group 4 tournament.
The team will definitely be motivated.
“This is super disappointing, and no doubt about it, but there’s a lot left on the table,” Cheddar said. “Hopefully we can use this disappointment to make us hungrier for the next tournament.”