CLARK, N.J.- The No. 3 Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity softball team began their state playoff tournament with hot bats in a first round matchup against the No. 14 Monmouth Falcons, defeating the visitors 11-1 Monday afternoon in Clark.
The Crusaders got things started in the bottom of the first inning, when junior Shannon Brogan recorded an RBI single, scoring senior Gabby Zatko. Brogan would come in on a sacrifice fly by junior Gianna Randazza. Johnson led after the bottom of the first inning 2-0.
In the second, Zatko had a huge hit of her own, smacking a long fly ball to deep left-center field, scoring sophomores Mackenzie Purcell and Jennifer Tinger. Randazza would drive in another run with an RBI double, and Johnson led 5-0 after that inning of play.
On the mound, Randazza pitched a complete game, striking out five batters while walking three. She also allowed one run (unearned) and two hits.
“I don’t think the score really matters,” Randazza said. “I just think we’re happy to advance in the state tournament. We’re really looking towards the state championship since we have the county tournament and conference under our belt. Our motto right now is pretty much, ‘Win as we go on.’”
Johnson freshman Victoria Zatko had a great day behind the plate, throwing out two runners on attempted second base steals.
“When I saw they put in a pinch runner, I was prepared because I knew the girl was going to try and steal and I didn’t want to allow a runner to be in scoring position,” Victoria Zatko said.
She showed them an example of a steal done right a short time later in the bottom of the third. As Purcell stole second, she took off from third base, sliding safely home to score, adding to the Johnson lead.
Still not done, Victoria Zatko cracked an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Freshman Bailey Rosenmeier recorded an RBI single with a base hit to left field, making the lead 7-1 Johnson.
Senior Stephanie Visconti delivered an RBI single for the Crusaders in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“We just need to have the same mentality we’ve had the whole season [and] just play our game every day and show up to play,” Visconti said of the state playoff games ahead.
After the RBI hits from Victoria Zatko and Visconti, it was 9-1 Johnson.
Rosenmeier hit a groundball and, after a throwing error by Monmouth junior Kim Fawett, two more Crusader runs came in, ending the game at 11-1.
“Last week, when we had a couple of days of practice we just had to find a way to get a little better and we did,” ALJ head coach Mike Mancino said. “We had some really good practices. Last night, we came and practiced. We were motivated and into it. I was pretty confident we would come to play well today and we did.”
Mancino said in each round somebody steps up and has a big day. He said that contributed to the county tournament win and will be the way the states shape up.
“Today, we had pitcher, catcher, Gabby Zatko in left field really stepped up,” Mancino added. “Vicki was outstanding. Her release was quick, she’s got a very strong arm, so that was never in doubt. Two big plays. She picked up Gianna in those spots and Gianna, when the outs were called, she was a new pitcher and motivated to go right back at it. Those are big outs and those are like free outs. Any time you can get them, you want them.”
The game was called in the bottom of the sixth inning due to the ten-run mercy rule.
Monmouth sophomore Danielle Kroll drove in the sole Falcons run, an RBI groundout in the top of the fourth inning.
The Johnson Crusaders (20-8) advance to the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 Quarterfinals, and will face off at home against No. 6 ranked Raritan High School Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.
The Monmouth Falcons finish their 2016 season with a 10-11 record.