Randazza, Tropeano Make Big Plays in Fourth Inning to Lift Johnson Softball Over Cranford in Home Opener

Arthur L. Johnson High School junior Gianna Randazza at the ALJ home opener against Cranford Friday morning in Clark. Credits: Daniel Collins
The Johnson Crusaders tossing the softballs around during warmups. They hope to be successful in 2016 like in previous seasons. Credits: Daniel Collins
Johnson infielders took part in pregame drills before their victory over Cranford. Credits: Daniel Collins
The Cranford Cougars huddled up outside their dugout upon completing their warmups before the game Friday morning. Credits: Daniel Collins
The Cranford players set up in the infield for their warmups before the game. Credits: Daniel Collins
Johnson softball head coach Mike Mancino at home plate with seniors Stephanie Visconti and Gabby Zatko, along with Cranford head coach Heather West, talking about game rules with the umpire. Credits: Daniel Collins
After the victory, Mancino talked to the players about each component of play, and talked to the team about their games in Delaware on Saturday, April 2. Credits: Daniel Collins

CLARK, NJ -  Junior Gianna Randazza dominated on the mound and on the bases, while sophomore Sydney Tropeano helped build momentum with a big two-run single in the Arthur L. Johnson High School softball home-opener against Cranford Friday morning in Clark. The final score was 8-0.

Randazza pitched a complete game, recording ten strikeouts, allowing three hits, and getting out of trouble in the fourth and fifth innings.

In a scoreless game, at the top of the fourth inning, Cranford got two runners on base with no outs, due to a walk to junior Jillian Skalski and an error that allowed senior Julia Palozzola to reach safely. It would be runners on second and third with no outs.

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Randazza struck out three in a row, getting sophomore Taylor Reitzel looking, while seniors Candice Durant and Jen Shore went down swinging to end the inning.

“It’s a good way to start off the season with a win,” Randazza said. “It’s very good for the team [because] it lifts our spirits a little bit, gets us motivated. We’ve got to stay hungry and humble the rest of the season.”

A gutsy play by Randazza in the bottom of the fourth started the Crusaders’ scoring.  After reaching first on an error, advancing to second on a walk, and reaching third on another error, Randazza decided to steal home.

“I went a little crazy on that,” Randazza said. “I don’t think Coach [Mancino] wanted me to go necessarily, but I just went with my gut and went, and I slid head-first. I guess everyone got pumped up, and we started a rally from there.”

She slid in, barely beating the tag and giving the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.

“Gianna’s a very instinctive base-runner,” ALJ head coach Mike Mancino said. “She’s played a lot of big-time softball. That play [stealing home], she’s on her own. If she gets a good jump, I’m not controlling it, she goes on her own. She made a great play.”

Cranford pitcher Brenna Dolan didn’t allow a hit to Johnson until Tropeano connected for a two-run single, putting Johnson up 3-0.

“I was pretty excited I was able to drive in those two runs and get the team moving,” Tropeano said. “It’s timely hitting and I’m proud to get the team going.”

Junior Shannon Brogan made it 4-0 with an RBI single later in the inning.

Cranford best scoring chance came in the top of the fifth, after senior Morgan Ferretti was hit by a pitch, and sophomore Sarah Gluck followed with a single. Both advanced after a wild pitch, but never found their way home as Randazza struck out the next two batters

“We were able to do a lot of small-ball things,” Johnson head coach Mike Mancino said. “We had two bunts in the bottom of the fourth inning that were big for us. We’ve been stressing that against good teams. We’ve got to be able to play small-ball.”

The sixth inning belonged to Johnson sophomore Nicole Cassano, who recorded a bases-clearing triple to extend the Johnson lead to 7-0. Then, to finish it off, Cassano put up a home-plate steal of her own, taking the final score to 8-0.

“Brenna did not have any earned runs, but errors happen in softball,” Cranford head coach Heather West said, “so I think that we need to let it roll and have each other’s back, and making sure we pick it up, instead of letting the errors kind of snowball.”

The Johnson Crusaders (1-0) head to Delaware Saturday to play two games;  Sussex Tech (DE) at 1:30 p.m. and William Penn Charter School (PA) at 3:30 p.m.

The Cranford Cougars (0-1) head out on the road to play the Voorhees Vikings in Glen Gardner, New Jersey at 10:00 a.m.

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