CEDAR GROVE, NJ - In a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs and the go-ahead runner at second Cedar Grove Softball Head Coach Nicole Velardi knew she would have to make a difficult decision in going with a young hitter who was due, or a veteran off of the bench.
The decision would lead to a 2-0 victory over Livingston on Friday in the Essex County Tournament.
Velardi elected to go with junior Olivia Spinella off the bench to try and drive home the go-ahead run for the Lady Panthers, which was in the form of Kelly Toomey, who doubled to start the rally.
“Spinella plays a huge role on my team,” said Velardi. "She’s an upperclassmen and I know in that situation you had a freshman up to bat who didn’t hit today and I had a lot of confidence in Spinella that she could make something happen for us."
Spinella drilled a pitch over the wall for a 2-0 Lady Panther lead and eventual game-winning hit. The two-out performance will be something Spinella will always remember, second only to her State Title last season, she said.
“That was definitely [one of] my top two [moments in her career],” said Spinella.
Spinella’s hit was all that Cedar Grove starting pitcher Mia Faieta needed to send her team onward to the ECT semifinal. Faieta allowed only three hits and struck out 12 Livingston batters.
The Livingston Lancers, now 8-12, came into the game a formidable opponent with some solid victories under their belts. Pitcher Jess Gorman did her best to equal Faieta by allowing a mere five hits and just two runs over six innings.
Despite struggling early in the season, the No. 6 Lady Lancers but could not be overlooked, according to Velardi.
“It wasn’t an easy game for us," she said. "Livingston is a great team—they’re always well-coached and I just thought we wanted it a little more today."
Cedar Grove will now head to No. 2 West Essex in the ECT semifinals, looking to exact revenge on a team that beat them 1-0 earlier this year. The Lancers fall to 8-12 overall but remain 4-6 in the league. Livingston will also take on West Essex this week in a regular game on Tuesday.