Demarest Rides Hot-Hitting Offense to Group 2 Finals Win over Johnson Crusaders Varsity Softball

ALJ senior Stephanie Visconti relieved junior Gianna Randazza on the mound in the 6th inning of Friday's NJSIAA Group 2 State Finals. Credits: Susan Bonnell
ALJ junior Gianna Randazza early in the game.  Credits: Susan Bonnell
ALJ senior Gabby Zatko. Credits: Susan Bonnell
ALJ senior Stephanie Visconti Credits: Susan Bonnell
ALJ junior Shannon Brogan   Credits: Susan Bonnell
ALJ sophomore Mackenzie Purcell Credits: Susan Bonnell
ALJ freshman Bailey Rosenmeier. Credits: Susan Bonnell
Conference on the mound. Credits: Susan Bonnell

UNION, N.J.- The Demarest Norsemen took the 2016 NJSIAA Group 2 State title with a win over the Central, Group 2 champion Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders Friday afternoon at Kean University. The final score was 9-3.

“I’m upset,” ALJ senior Gabby Zatko said. “But I think everyone is happy with our title and the other team played really well, so I congratulate them.”

The teams were scoreless after the first two innings of the game.

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Johnson freshman Victoria Zatko recorded a one-out double for the first hit of the game in the bottom of the second inning, but no runs came in to score that inning.

In the top of the third inning, after two walks and a hit, Demarest had the bases loaded with no outs. They would take over the game at this point. Demarest sophomore Ellen Hamlin cleared the bases with a triple, giving the Norsemen a 3-0 lead. She came in on a passed ball to increase Demarest’s lead to 4-0.

Hamlin kept up the pressure, recording an RBI double early in the fifth, bringing Victoria Corcoran home from first base to put the Norsemen 5-0 over the Crusaders. She had four RBIs on the afternoon.

Two more runs would score in the top of the fifth inning to make it a 7-0 lead for Demarest.  With two more runs added in the top of the sixth, Johnson head coach Mike Mancino pulled starting pitcher Gianna Randazza. Reliever senior Stephanie Visconti held Demarest at 9-0, giving ALJ last up.

The Crusaders tried for the comeback in the bottom of the seventh, scoring one on an error, one on junior Shannon Brogan’s RBI and their third and final run on a sacrifice fly by Randazza, but it was not enough.

“The last game is not indicative of the year we had,” ALJ head coach Mike Mancino said. “We just picked a bad day to have a bad day. Hats off to our seniors who really kept us together and our upperclassmen: Steph Visconti and Gabby Zatko, our seniors; Gianna Randazza, Shannon Brogan our juniors. They really, really kept us together.”

Randazza finishes the 2016 season with a 15-5 record on the mound, with 145 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings, including a no-hitter against Westfield on April 11. At the plate, she had 46 hits, 49 RBIs, three home runs, ten doubles and three triples.

“Our school’s never accomplished what we did this year,” Randazza said. “We’re definitely proud of that.  We definitely had a great group of girls and a great season.”

Visconti finished the season with an 8-2 record on the mound, with 32 strikeouts in 56-1/3 innings. At the plate, she recorded 46 hits, 14 doubles, 1 triple and 38 RBIs

Senior Gabby Zatko finished the season with 36 hits, 18 RBIs, 11 doubles, one triple and one home run.

“Clearly this is the best team the school’s ever had,” Mancino said. “We won three titles: a county, a state and a conference. I’ll take that every year.”

With a deep bench of freshmen and sophomores, Mancino said the team’s “future is bright.”

“We’ll come back and try to work hard,” Randazza said, looking ahead to next year. “We’re only losing two seniors. They had big roles, but I think we can come back and do pretty well.”

The Johnson Crusaders finish their 2016 season with a 24-9 record. This was their first appearance in the Group Finals since 1996.

The Demarest Norsemen finished their 2016 season with a 27-5 record.

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