BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Heights Heat PAL 8U Softball team won the D2 Garden State Parkway 8U National Division championship with a 7-2 victory over Springfield after defeating the No. 1 seeded North Edison, 9-3, in the semifinal round on their home field.
The Heat entered the playoffs full of confidence, with a 7-3 record that earned them the No. 4 seed in the tournament. The team showed tremendous spirit through the season, which included numerous come from behind/walkoff victories. That spirit would be put to the test against the best our area has to offer in the playoffs.
The Heat opened their playoff campaign with a resounding 24-1 victory over No. 13 seed Watchung Hills. Mia Graham and Izzy Joly paced the Heat with four hits and 3 RBI apiece. Things turned much tighter in the quarterfinals against a determined Westfield team, seeded fifth. The game featured amazing defensive plays by both teams and was scoreless through four innings. Westfield broke through for three runs in the top of the fifth inning, and it would remain that way until the bottom of the sixth. Annie Young, Alexandra Duyree and Maggie Quinn all singled to open the inning and load the bases. Grace Dahn’s double plated two runs and brought the Heat within one at 3-2. After a fly-out, Paige Drennan drilled a ball to left center for a double that brought the tying and winning runs home for a thrilling 4-3 walk-off victory.
That sent the Heat to the semifinals on Tuesday night, where they’d face the No. 1 seed, North Edison, on their home field. The Heat got out to an early lead with a 3-run first inning on RBIs by Drennan, Graham and Lia Castrovinci. North Edison threatened in the bottom half of the inning, but Quinn and Castrovinci teamed up for a huge double play when Quinn caught a liner to the pitcher and doubled up the runner on third to end the rally. The Heat kept the defensive pressure on all night and used a 5-run fifth inning to put the game out of reach on their way to a 9-3 semifinal win.
Due to concerns about the weather forecast later in the week, the Championship game was moved up, and was played immediately following the semifinal game. The Heat were matched up with the No. 3 seed Springfield in the final. The teams held each other scoreless in the first inning, then traded a run apiece in the second. The Heat would strike a big blow in the third when Graham’s two-out single brought home a pair of runs, and gave the Heat a 3-1 lead. The Heat’s defense stayed red-hot as they notched a 1-2-3 third inning, highlighted by a great stop and throw across the diamond by Castrovinci to both end the inning, and fire up the Heat fans in attendance. The Heat brought home four more runs in the fourth inning to push the lead to 7-1, highlighted by Annie Young and Alyson Sayre each notching their third hits of the game. The Heat defense held Springfield to one run in the fifth, and kept them off the board in the bottom of the 6th – giving the team a 7-2 championship victory.
During the run to the title, the Heat slugged their way to 44 runs but held their opponents to a meager 9 runs over four games. "The combination of a potent offense and a lock-down defense, along with 17 girls who played as a team and never gave up, proved to be too much for the D2 Parkway League," said Coach Jason Joly. "Nine of the girls on the team played their last game at the 8U level Tuesday, and they get to move to the next division as champions. The girls that remain at 8U will be ready to defend the title next summer."
Team Photo Caption: Front Row (L-R): Grace Dahn, Annie Young, Allie Nelson, Mia Graham, Izzy Joly, Lia Castrovinci, Paige Drennan; Middle Row: Maggie Quinn, Alaina McDonnell, Ella Freyre, Alexandra Duyree. Molly Altman, Alyson Sayre, Jane Geddis; Back Row (Coaches): Russ Altman, Cindy Dahn, Kerry Drennan, Jason Joly, Bret Sayre, Liz Quinn (Head Coach); Not Pictured: Samantha Bernstein, Ava Garcia, Lucia Xhelo
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