CLARK, NJ-  The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders honored their seniors before taking the field to play the Metuchen High School Bulldogs. With a hot-hitting lineup, the Crusaders defeated the Bulldogs by a final score of 14-4 Monday afternoon in Clark.

Seniors Gianna Randazza, Shannon Brogan and Alexa DePinho were honored for their years of dedication and hard work with the Johnson varsity softball team. All three players reflected upon their high school softball careers and getting the win on Senior Day.

•    “Today, it was about the team effort, we really just cared about the win. It didn’t really matter who we are playing, we got the win, that’s all we needed.” -Gianna Randazza

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•    “It’s just awesome to be here with my team and for us to show all of our hard work throughout the season is finally paying off and we just have to keep working and get the wins for the rest of the week.” -Shannon Brogan

•    “The team has each other’s backs and just being with each and every one of us. When someone does something wrong, messes up or anything, we all have each other’s backs and all about the bond we have with one another.” -Alexa DePinho

Randazza will play Division I Softball at Boston College and major in biology. Brogan will go on to play Division II softball at Moravian College, majoring in psychology.

DePinho will attend Stockton University, studying Early Education with a Special Education Certification.

“We have a great group of girls and it’s led by the seniors,” head coach Chris Di Nucci said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else in the state. Gianna, Shannon and Alexa, they’re all very different, they’re all competitors and they all want to win, but at the time, they always put the team before themselves. That’s what best about them, they’re better people than players.”

As the game started, the Crusaders continued to prove why their lineup is a dangerous one to face. They immediately got started in the bottom of the first inning.

Junior Nicole Cassano got Johnson on the board with an RBI single, scoring Brogan to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead. Freshman Megan Tinger singled to score Cassano to make the score 2-0.

Later on, junior Mackenzie Purcell continued her hot streak at the plate, doubling on a deep fly-ball, scoring sophomore Victoria Zatko and Megan Tinger, making the lead 4-0 Johnson.

“It was really important to get a win for the three seniors today for Senior Day,” Purcell said. “We wanted to make everything good for them, that we would want as seniors next year. Just keep everything upbeat and going well today, so I think we did a good job.”

On the mound, Cassano pitched a complete game, striking out four batters, and allowed four runs on five hits. She was honored to get the call to start on Senior Day.

“It was an honor because I wanted to just help the seniors that way and contribute to it and just hope for the best and have a good game,” Cassano said.

The Crusaders continued to cash in on scoring opportunities. Junior Lauren Donah broke out of a recent slump with an RBI double, scoring junior Jen Tinger to make the lead 5-0 for Johnson. Cassano drove in her second run of the game with a double, scoring Donah, as the game became 6-0.

“It felt great to actually help the team out again,” Donah said. “I was in a slump and then I felt comfortable and confident, so I’m glad to be back and helping the seniors achieve their goals of winning today.”

Zatko singled, driving in Cassano, opening it up and giving Johnson a 7-0 lead. Metuchen would respond with their offense.

Senior Alanna Benderly singled, driving sophomore Julia DiBennedetto to cut the lead to 7-1.  Next up, senior Brooke Bandola singled and drove in senior Molly Walters as it came 7-2. Junior Julia Pirro doubled on a deep fly ball, scoring Benderly and Bandela, as the lead now became 7-4. Johnson would get out of the inning without further damage.

The Crusaders’ offense just had more firepower as the game shifted to the bottom half of the inning. Donah drove in her second run of the game with a single that scored Jen Tinger. A second run came in on an error, making it a 9-4 game.

Randazza followed her with an RBI single, scoring Donah, making the game 10-4. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Crusaders kept the offensive pressure on.

Tinger reached on an error, scoring both Zatko and Purcell as the game became 12-4 Johnson. Brogan drove in Jen Tinger for an RBI single to make the lead 13-4. Donah cashed in for her third RBI of the afternoon, scoring sophomore Jenna Addie, as the game was now 14-4.

Donah went 3-for-4 on the afternoon with a double and three RBIs.

The game was called after the top of the fifth inning, with the score 14-4 Johnson, courtesy of the ten-run mercy rule.

The Johnson Crusaders (13-7) remain home for their next game, when they play against Elizabeth HS Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

The Metuchen Bulldogs (10-5) will return home for a regular season game against Freehold Township HS Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

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