CLARK, NJ - The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity softball team went into the Union County Tournament quarterfinals game looking to advance and succeeded. They defeated Dayton High School, 10-0, Wednesday.
Dayton threatened in the top of the first inning. Following an infield bunt-single, a hit-by-pitch and error, the bases were loaded.
ALJ senior Shannon Brogan fielded a tough grounder and threw the ball to sophomore Victoria Zatko, to get the force-out at home. Senior Gianna Randazza got the strikeout to get out of trouble.
In the bottom of the first inning, Brogan singled and went to second on an error. She went to third base following a Lauren Donah single. Junior Nicole Cassano recorded a sacrifice fly, scoring Brogan to give Johnson an early 1-0 lead.
“We just have to keep our heads up and keep moving and become like a new team and keep working hard so we can maybe get to the finals,” Cassano said.
Zatko cashed in on a deep fly ball for an RBI double, making the score 2-0.
“I just kind of came into this game thinking I need to hit the ball,” Zatko said. “It didn’t matter where I hit the ball, I just needed to make contact, so know moving into the [Union County Tournament] semifinals, I just need to make the same thing and be ready for a good game.”
In the bottom of the second inning, junior Mackenzie Purcell, who’s begun to get a lot of key hits for the Crusaders, led off the inning with a triple. She came in to score on a sacrifice fly from sophomore Jenna Addie, making the score 3-0 Crusaders.
The Crusaders continued to cash in on scoring opportunities in the bottom of the third inning. Freshman Megan Tinger hit a double, scoring Zatko to make the score 4-0. Purcell recorded an RBI double of her own, as the Crusaders led 5-0 as the inning ended.
On the afternoon, Zatko went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI’s. The Crusaders added a run in the bottom of the fifth inning on an error, the score now 6-0.
Johnson would put up four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Randazza doubled, bringing home Brogan to make the game 7-0. Zatko recorded her second RBI with a groundout, making it 8-0 Crusaders.
Megan Tinger then recorded an RBI double, scoring Zatko to make the game 9-0. Purcell doubled later in the inning, scoring Tinger to make the game 10-0.
In total, Purcell went 4-for-4 on the afternoon with two doubles, a triple and two RBI’s. Megan Tinger went 2-for-3 with three RBI’s in the win for Johnson.
“Winning today was like a good, pick-me-up from Tuesday,” Purcell said. “We did fight hard on Tuesday, it was a good game, so I’m hoping we take that energy, excitement and effort into the [Union County Tournament semifinals] and take this win to carry us for the rest of the tournament and hopefully do something great.”
On the mound, Randazza pitched a complete game, striking out six batters and allowing only five hits to pick up the win.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, we’re just trying to get a win and stay focused on winning the counties, which is one of our goals,” Randazza said.
The game was called in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Crusaders ahead 10-0, with the mercy rule.
“We talked about taking it one inning at a time, one game at a time and progressing from there,” Johnson head coach Chris Di Nucci said. “There’s no one hit that’s going to get us three wins back, no innings that are going to get us games in the past back. We talked about forgetting about what happened in the past.”
“We’re excited to be in the semifinals and our goal is to try to advance to the finals,” Di Nucci added.
The Johnson Crusaders (10-7) play their next regular season game at home against Brearley HS Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
They advance to the Union County Tournament Semifinals on Saturday, May 6, where they will take on Westfield HS in Linden. The time of the game is TBD.
“We have Brearley tomorrow, so that’s our focus right now,” Brogan said. “After that, it’s the semifinals. That’s going to be our focus.”
The Jonathan Dayton Bulldogs (8-4) will go back out on the road for a regular season game at West Orange HS Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
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