LINDEN, NJ- The No. 1 ranked Johnson Crusaders and the No. 5 ranked Cranford Cougars faced off in the Union County Tournament Semifinals, and Cougars came away with the victory Saturday afternoon in Linden. The final score was 6-1.
In the top of the first inning, with one out and a runner at third base, Vienna Stivala hit the ball to centerfield, and Morgan Ferretti tried to score the game’s first run, but she was thrown out at the plate by Johnson senior Stephanie Donah.
The game would remain scoreless until the top of the third inning, when the Cougars broke through with the game’s first runs.
After the first two runners got on base, Ferretti got a base hit, scoring Rebecca Scott from second base to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead. Jen Shore would record an RBI on a groundout, scoring Tessa Ferrentinos to extend the lead to 2-0.
Ferretti also stole home to increase Cranford’s lead to 3-0 and they were not done yet.
The Cougars added three more runs in the top of the fourth inning.
Taylor Reitzel recorded a two-run double, scoring Julia Palozzola and Jillian Skalski to increase their lead to 5-0.
Ferretti would record an RBI single, scoring Reitzel to go up a score of 6-0.
“It’s very exciting,” Cranford head coach Heather Bormann said. “It took all the girls working together, and the coaches working together, and I’m just so happy for them.”
On the mound for the Cranford Cougars was Theresa Wetherell, who held the Crusaders in check. She pitching five innings, recording seven strikeouts, and issuing one walk. She also gave up three hits.
“It feels really good that we played as a team,” Wetherell said. “We really fought hard, we all wanted this, and I think we proved ourselves today.”
Brennan Dolan came into the game in the top of the sixth in as a relief pitcher for Cranford, and she pitched the last two innings, securing the victory for the Cougars.
For the Crusaders, sophomore Gianna Randazza got the start, and she gave up six runs on six hits, while striking out four batters and issuing three walks.
Senior Lauren Margel recorded an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring sophomore Shannon Brogan from second base, to get the Crusaders on the board.
“We’ve got a lot to play for,” Johnson head coach Mike Mancino said. “We’ve done a really good job of setting ourselves up for the state tournament. We’ve got to stay together, and we’ve got to stay positive. This was a really good team, we just had a bad day today.”
Next up, the Cranford Cougars (7-4-1) in the Union County Tournament Finals next Saturday against the No. 2 ranked Governor Livingston Highlanders at Kean University at 2 p.m.
Wetherell also felt that the team can take away one important aspect from the game, as they prepare for the next round.
“The way we pick each other up and carry each other and cheer each other on really helps us get through the game, and I think that’s going to help us finish our season strong,” Wetherell added.
The Johnson Crusaders (14-3) take on the Linden Tigers Tuesday afternoon at home at 4 p.m.