BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders' mistakes and inability to cash in on scoring opportunities cost them in the end, as the Highlanders held on to defeat the Crusaders by a final score of 9-6 Monday in Berkeley Heights.
The Highlanders put runners on base in the bottom of the first inning and with a few wild pitches added in, advanced a runner to third base. Senior Madison Phillips took off for home in a double-steal tactic with senior Alyssa Hammer on first base going to second, giving Governor Livingston an early 1-0 lead.
They would tack on another run in the bottom of the second inning to go up 2-0.
“It’s big momentum moving forward because [Johnson] was the one game that we’ve been preparing for,” Phillips said. “We knew they were undefeated, beating the top team in the state. This is the biggest conference win for us.”
The Highlanders continued to give the Crusaders trouble, loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the third inning. After Johnson got the next two batters out, Governor Livingston senior Nicole Trezza cashed in on a base hit, scoring two more runs to put the Highlanders up by a score of 4-0.
The Crusaders would threaten in the top of the fourth inning with senior Gianna Randazza leading off with a triple. She later scored on a wild pitch, cutting the Highlanders lead to 4-1. They would load the bases, but couldn’t build on the one run.
Governor Livingston junior Jaime Belfer recorded an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning, to give Governor Livingston a 5-1 lead. Johnson tried to cut into the deficit for the second time in the next inning.
“I thought we hit well, put the ball in play, and were clutch with runners in scoring position today,” Governor Livingston head coach Mike Roof said. “We were better especially with runners in scoring position today than we’ve been up to this point this year in meaningful games. We were also a bit more aggressive on the base-paths and our decision-making was good offensively today.”
“You can see how we applied early pressure with a run in the first, a run in the second inning,” Roof added. “A lot of it was aggressive base running, taking a shot here and there and maybe them helping us with some indecision in the field at times. Bottom line is we capitalized on our opportunities and the girls were really motivated and focused for this game. They competed their rear-ends off ”
In the top of the fifth inning, after singles from Johnson junior Jen Tinger and Randazza, junior Lauren Donah smacked a pitch into the outfield, scoring the both runners, cutting the Governor Livingston lead to 5-3. The Highlanders kept on answering the Crusaders’ comeback attempts.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Trezza was at the plate again and hit a towering fly ball that had the outfielders chasing the ball back, scoring senior Katie Debbie. Trezza would come in and score as well, for the inside-the-park two-run home run, making the score 7-3 Highlanders.
Trezza finished the game, going 4-for-4 with the four RBI’s, the two-run single and the two-run home run.
“When anyone hits [a home run], you can feel the change in the atmosphere of the dugout,” Trezza said. “Just to get the ball rolling and get everyone excited, it’s like a chain reaction and that’s a great feeling to be able to do that.”
Governor Livingston tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to go up by a score of 9-3.
Johnson hung on as the top of the seventh inning began. After Tinger got a single and sophomore Victoria Zatko walked, Donah cashed in again with another RBI double, scoring Tinger to make it a 9-4 Highlanders' lead.
With the Highlanders one out away from securing a win, sophomore Jenna Addie was at the plate for Johnson. She hit a high pop-up that was dropped in the outfield, scoring Zatko and Donah to make it a 9-6 game, but the Highlanders held on to secure the win.
The mistakes that were accumulated early on came back to haunt the Crusaders, from leaving runners on and the Highlanders cashing in on scoring opportunities.
“We made a few mistakes, they jumped ahead on us. [GL’s] a good softball team,” Johnson head coach Chris Di Nucci said. “Give them credit, they had some timely hits, they ran the bases well and it came down to us making more mistakes than they did, but give them some credit and they did a nice job of getting the win today.”
The game was a make-up from Thursday, April 6, one of the several games for the Crusaders that ended up being postponed due to the inclement weather.
The Johnson Crusaders (5-1) play away at Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (6-2) will play at Union HS Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.