CLARK, NJ -  Arthur L. Johnson High School senior Gianna Randazza hit two home runs, collected six RBI’s and pitched a one-hitter, as the Crusaders stormed past the Rahway High School Indians, 14-0, in the first round of the 2017 Union County Tournament Saturday afternoon.  The win broke a recent Crusaders slump.

The Crusaders scored early in the bottom of the first inning. Following a lead-off single by senior Shannon Brogan (went to second base on error), Randazza drove her home with a single to make the score 1-0 Johnson.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Crusaders added four more runs. Brogan singled and went to second base on a throwing error, driving in sophomore Jenna Addie and junior Jen Tinger. With Brogan at second, Randazza took a 3-1 pitch and crushed it to left field and out for a two-run home run, as the Crusaders now held a 5-0 lead.

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The bats remained hot for the Crusaders, as their offense exploded for nine runs in the bottom of the third inning. After junior Mackenzie Purcell reached on an error, a Jenna Addie walk and a Jen Tinger single, Brogan drove in two runs with a single to center field to make the game 7-0 Johnson. Tinger would come in to score on an error to make the score 8-0.

In total, Brogan went 2-for-3 with the four RBI’s on the afternoon. She praised her teammates for coming together as one to break out of the recent struggles with the great offensive game.

“I think we just stick together as a team and we play as a team,” Brogan said. “That helps a lot; it helps take the pressure off Gianna, especially when she’s pitching. It was really good today.”

With runners at the corners and still no outs at that point, Randazza smoked a 2-1 pitch to deep left field for a three-run home run, her second of the game, giving the Crusaders an 11-0 lead. She now has six home runs on the season and went 3-for-3 at the plate on the afternoon.

“We needed a win to get our confidence back and that’s what we did, so we’re really happy about it,” Randazza said.

Rahway couldn’t keep up as Johnson kept putting their runners on base. Junior Nicole Cassano went to second base following an Indians error. Sophomore Victoria Zatko worked a walk to put runners on first and second base. The first eight Crusader batters in the inning reached base before Rahway recorded their first out of the inning.

Two batters later, junior Mackenzie Purcell came through with a two-run double to make the score 13-0 Johnson. She would come in to score later in the inning as the lead became 14-0 Johnson.

“It feels great to get that type of hit because it is the beginning of the counties, but we still needed to get it done,” Purcell said. “So, when I got up there, I was relaxed and just thought the team needs this hit. When the team gets going, everything goes well, so it’s part of that.”

On the mound, Randazza was perfect through three innings, before Rahway sophomore Ava Garay reached on an error, ending her bid for a perfect game. Senior Chantel Winstead recorded an infield single, the first hit of the game for Rahway, to end the no-hitter bid.

Randazza struck out seven batters and didn’t walk any, giving up only Winstead’s infield single.

The game was called after the top of the fourth inning.

“We talked about how we’re a good softball team,” Johnson head coach Chris Di Nucci said. “We lost some close games and it’s not about trying to reinvent the wheel or doing a lot of things that are different. It’s just taking one pitch and one inning at a time and they took care of business today and we got the win that we needed.”

The Johnson Crusaders (8-6) play their next regular season game at home against Summit HS Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

They advance to the Union County Tournament quarterfinals on Wednesday, May 3, when they will take on Dayton HS in a home game at 4:00 p.m.

“We just have to keep playing tough,” Brogan added. “Having two games in a row is tough, but we’re going to be okay because we play as a team,”.

The Rahway Indians (7-5) will return home to take on Oak Knoll HS Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

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