CLARK, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School softball team continued its great start to the season, dominating at the plate to roll right by the Pingry High School Big Blue, 11-0 in five innings, in the Crusaders’ home opener on Saturday.
From the outset, the Crusaders were in solid offensive control. With bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the first. ALJ junior Lauren Donah walked, bringing in senior Shannon Brogan. Another bases-loaded walk by freshman Megan Tinger scored senior Gianna Randazza, making it 2-0.
Sophomore Jenna Addie drove in a run with a deep fly ball for a sacrifice fly, scoring sophomore Victoria Zatko. The scoring continued, as junior Sydney Tropeano reached on an error, allowing Donah to come in. The Crusaders carried a 4-0 lead at the end of the first inning.
Pingry threatened with back-to-back singles to start off the top of the second, but Randazza struck out the next three batters to end it, keeping the score 4-0 with Johnson out in front.
As the game shifted to the bottom of the third inning, freshman Megan Tinger doubled to deep center field and Addie picked up her second RBI with a single to drive home Tinger, increasing the Crusaders’ lead to 5-0.
Pingry would battle back in the top of the fourth inning. After a lead-off single from Angelina Mayer and back-to-back batters hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with no outs, the Big Blue were set for a comeback, but the Crusaders wouldn’t allow it to happen.
Randazza struck out Pingry’s Madeline Parrish, but it was Mary Kovacs, up next, who fell to a crazy Crusader sequence. Kovacs hit the ball straight back to Randazza, who threw it to Victoria Zatko for the forceout at home. Zatko subsequently heaved the ball right to Megan Tinger at first base, completing the 1-2-3 double play and not allowing a single run to score. The Crusaders’ lead stayed intact at 5-0.
“I knew once the bases were loaded that we were going to have a chance to get a double play,” Zatko said. “As soon as the groundball went to Gianna, I was ready with the ball and threw it right to Megan and she was ready at first.”
“Victoria and I talk about this all the time, trying to get the double play after the throw home,” Tinger said. “I knew it was coming and that Victoria was going to throw it perfect.”
Johnson first-year head coach Chris Di Nucci gave his players credit for keeping their composure and playing their normal way as they recorded the outs.
“We talked about dealing with adversity all the time,” Di Nucci said. “We have faith with Gianna in the circle; that she’s going to get it done. We believe in our players, so we have a lot of confidence that we’re going to get out of situations like that and we came out of there with no-harm, no-foul.”
On the morning, Randazza pitched a complete game, striking out 12 batters, allowing only two hits and walking one batter. It was Randazza’s 50th career win. On Tuesday, Randazza recorded her 150th career hit on the road at Cranford in a 10-4 win.
“Just get the next out, let them put the ball in play and let my team do the work,” Randazza said she was thinking during the bases-loaded situation in the fourth. “I have a lot of faith in my team to make the play and I’m not too nervous in the situation.”
The Crusaders would take advantage of Pingry’s missed golden chance for the comeback, with a huge bottom of the fourth inning. Randazza ran home and scored on a wild pitch from Pingry starting pitcher Jillian Barr, to make it a 6-0 Johnson lead. Zatko then recorded an RBI single, scoring junior Jennifer Tinger to increase Johnson’s lead to 7-0.
Addie drove in her third run of the game with another double as the Crusaders broke it open, leading 8-0 now.
“It was great, I thought we did well as a team,” Addie said.
The game went to the bottom of the fifth inning, as freshman Lia D’Angelo walked and Brogan singled to put runners on first and second base with no outs and junior Jennifer Tinger drove in D’Angelo with an RBI single, to make it 9-0.
Randazza would reach on a throwing error, with two runs coming in, making the score 11-0, ending the game on the mercy rule.
The Johnson Crusaders (5-0) head out on the road to play at Governor Livingston HS Monday morning at 11:00 a.m.
“GL’s always a big game, a conference game, tough opponent and both teams know each other well,” Di Nucci said. “I’m sure they’re ready to go and geared up to play and we’ll be ready to go. It’s just the next game and we’ll go out and compete.”
The Pingry Big Blue (0-5) will return home to take on Somerville HS Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.
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