CLARK, NJ-  The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity softball team shook off a shaky top of the first inning, and responded with their hot bats to defeat the Bound Brook Crusaders in the season finale Friday afternoon in Clark. The final score was 8-5.

Bound Brook struck first, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning, with three of those runs coming on a bases-clearing double by Charli Fillmore, but the Crusaders would march back later on in the game.

In the bottom of the third inning, senior Cathryn Schlaeger got on base after being hit by a pitch, and following singles by senior Stephanie Donah and sophomore Gianna Randazza, junior Gabby Zatko walked with the bases loaded for an RBI, trimming the deficit to 4-1.

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Senior Lauren Beck would follow with a two-run single that got them to 4-3.

Senior Lauren Margel and junior Stephanie Visconti would follow with RBI groundouts to put Johnson out in front by a score of 5-4.

“Each year, our seniors have been setting the bar a little bit higher. We know there are other goals that we didn’t get to, but that’s not what today was about,” ALJ Head Coach Mike Mancino said.

The Clark Crusaders would add to their lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, with an RBI single from Zatko, and a two-run double from senior Kristen Meagher, bringing them to 8-4.

Meagher gave her thoughts on what she would take away from this year as she heads into her future.  

“This season was great, we did a lot of great stuff,” Meagher said. “Getting a hit in my last game was an amazing feeling, and I’m going to take all my hard work and bring it to college with me.”

Randazza pitched five innings, striking out four batters, and issuing one walk. She also gave up two earned runs and three hits.

Visconti relieved Randazza on the mound in the top of the sixth inning to finish out the game.

Johnson senior Stephanie Donah went 1-3 at the plate, and finished with 98 career hits with the Crusaders varsity softball team.

“We had a great spirit throughout the whole season and we clicked as a team,” Donah said. “I look forward to clicking with my future team at Felician [College].”

With the 2015 season in the books for Johnson, there were a lot of positive accomplishments to reflect upon.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Schlaeger said. “From being the top team in the counties, number one in the group, number one in everything, to just sitting here crying my eyes out because it’s all over.”

Mancino shared his reflections on the season.

“We had contributions from each of our six seniors, and finished with 22 wins. Most of them were a part of 44 wins, we had 22 wins last year and 22 this year. There are a lot of positive things this year, we beat some good teams, like Delmar HS, the No. 1 team in Delaware; Livingston, who is still alive in the states; Bridgewater, who is still alive in the states. We beat Governor Livingston, who is still alive in the states. It was just a really good, solid year,” Mancino said.

The Johnson Crusaders finish the 2015 season with a 22-6 record, while the Bound Brook Crusaders (17-4) play their next game Tuesday afternoon at home against South River High School in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 1 state tournament semifinals.