CLARK, NJ - Governor Livingston High School senior Katie Debbie hit a sacrifice fly to lift the Highlanders over the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders by a final score of 2-1 in nine innings Tuesday afternoon in Clark.
The extra inning sequence was a part of a crazy ending to the regular stages of the game.
“Defeating Johnson has a big influence on our team in general,” Debbie said. “Over the past three years, we’ve struggled against them. We’ve won one game against them prior to this season, so it was really big to hit that sacrifice fly to score Madison Phillips.”
The last time the two teams played, the Highlanders defeated the Johnson Crusaders 9-6 in Berkeley Heights on April 17.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, Johnson junior Nicole Cassano lined a double, scoring junior Lauren Donah to tie the game. It came following an intentional walk to Johnson senior Gianna Randazza.
The Highlanders escaped out of the inning, just allowing the one run as the game shifted to extra innings.
The teams traded scoring chances in the eighth inning, but nothing came across. Johnson put two runners on the bottom of the eighth inning, but couldn’t scratch a run across.
“We just had to have faith in each other, that was the biggest part,” GL pitcher Alanna Namit said of her team's performance. “Whenever something like [the bottom of the seventh inning] happens, you always get down, but we had to pick each other up and that’s what we did.”
After getting two runners on base in the top of the ninth inning, Debbie got the sacrifice fly to give her team the lead. Despite the Crusaders getting one on base in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Highlanders closed the door to secure another win.
“I just told the girls to stay within themselves, don’t try to overcomplicate things, and keep your composure,” Governor Livingston head coach Mike Roof said. “Alanna’s giving us tremendous innings, and as long as we stay solid in the field, we’ll get another opportunity to win this game. The biggest concern for me today was how we struggled on the base-paths today.”
“We ran ourselves out of situations where we could’ve got that insurance run,” Roof added. They [Johnson] got that tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, and that happens sometimes, but if we had made better decisions today running the bases than we might have had that extra cushion and not gotten into the situation that we did. We made it more difficult for ourselves today at times, but we got the job done in the end. I also want to give Johnson their fair share of credit. I thought their pitcher competed today and they got a big hit when they needed one. Ultimately, we were able to respond and not give in to the momentum they built up by tying the game.
Namit kicked off the scoring for the Highlanders with an RBI single to give her team the early 1-0 lead. The rest of the game featured a battle on the mound between Cassano and Namit.
Despite the loss, the Johnson Crusaders feel optimistic about their chances moving forward, especially after an improved performance over their April meeting against the Highlanders.
"I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Johnson head coach Chris Di Nucci said. “I told them we fell on the short side of the stick here today, 2-1, a tough game against GL, but battled into extra innings. Give them some credit, they did a nice job. They came up with some big hits.”
The Johnson Crusaders (9-7) will take on Dayton HS in a home game in the 2017 Union County Tournament Quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (13-2) will head back home to take on Summit HS in the 2017 Union County Tournament Quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.