CRANFORD, NJ -- In what almost seemed like a rerun of the summer’s playoff run, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood PAL 12U Cobras softball team once again finished on top as they captured the D2 Parkway 12U American Division Fall championship with a 9-7 win over Cranford on Saturday in Cranford.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood was the No. 5 seed entering the tournament. In similar fashion to the summer campaign, the fall Cobrasdominated their side of the playoff bracket which required them to defeat No. 4 seed Summit and No. 1 seed Metuchen (by a score of 3-2) en route to the final victory over No. 2 Cranford. The win was special because the 12U fall team was only partially composed of players from the summer Championship and included a handful of 12U first timers.
The Cobras playoff run began last Thursday in a game that certainly had the feel of October softball. With the wind whipping and the trees swaying further each inning, the Cobras jumped out to a quick lead over Summit and were able to shut it down with a final score of 9-6. Olivia DiSalvo was in the circle for the Cobras and went 4 innings surrendering 5 runs on 3 hits and striking out 11. She also went 3-for-3 at the plate alongside the solid offensive production of Emily Roof (3 for 3) and Kaitlyn Massa (2 for 3).
The semifinal matchup had SPF pitted against Metuchen, which went 8-0 during the fall and limited opponents to just 18 runs. In their regular season match up, Metuchen beat the Cobras 11-1. However, the Cobras came prepared to face the opposing team's strong pitching staff with Roof blasting a one out triple to left center in the top of the first. SPF wasn’t able to capitalize, and Roof was stranded at third.
DiSalvo and Sairah Llano shared the mound for the Cobras pitching alternate innings with DiSalvo quickly retiring Metuchen in the first. Llano started off the second with a leadoff single, but the Cobras stranded another runner by the end of the inning.
In the third, SPF was finally able to capitalize after a series of hits and stolen bases put them on the board first. Hanna Baik led off with a line drive single to right field and stole second. Next, Massa connected on the first pitch of the at bat sending it into right field to score Baik for a 1-0 lead. The Cobras would score again the next inning as Angelina Valente got the inning started with a leadoff single. After working the count, DiSalvo would sit on a waist high change-up which she promptly ripped for a double. Speedy pinch runner Massa came on to run for DiSalvo and advanced to third on an infield grounder by Llano, bringing Abby Richardson to the plate with 1 out. Richardson fell behind 0-2 early in the at bat but was able to battle back and drive an outside pitch to right which landed just inside the right field line, scoring Massa. Cobras 3, Metuchen 0.
Metuchen would threaten in both the 5th and 6th innings, scoring a run in each and narrowing the Cobra lead to just 1 run. Going into the final frame, Metuchen kept pressing and on a misplayed infield pop-up was able to put a runner on first with no outs. DiSalvo was able to generate 3 ground ball outs in the inning including a hard grounder to Roof at shortstop which she easily handled for the final out of the game, won 3-2 by the Cobras.
The Cobras had previously lost, 15-6, earlier in the season to Cranford, a team that limited its opponents to only 19 runs during the season. Roof would get the start on the mound for the Cobras, who led off the game scoring a quick run in the first when DiSalvo drove in her first RBI of the day that brought in Massa, who walked to start the inning. After going 3-2 to the first two batters resulting in walks, Roof was able to settle in striking out the next two and emerging from the inning unscathed.
The Cobras came back swinging in the second and in what appeared to be repeat of the exact scenario which generated the second run in the semi-final game against Metuchen, Baik singled on the first pitch of the at bat, promptly stole second and on an 0-2 pitch Richardson once again put a ball just out of reach of the Cranford first baseman which landed inside the right field line scoring Baik. After a series of walks to load the bases, Massa drew a bases loaded walk leaving the table set for Roof who took advantage and ripped a ball into center – Cobras 5, Cranford 0.
Following a few misplayed balls and another hit and RBI by DiSalvo, Cranford was able to retire the Cobras, but the damage was already done as the Cobras built up an 8-run lead going into the third inning. Llano would come in to pitch in the third relieving Roof who went two innings, allowing 1 hit and no runs while striking out 3.
Cranford began chipping away at the Cobra lead in the fourth and nearly erased the 8 run deficit in the fifth when after a series of extra base hits, was able to score an additional 5 runs narrowing the SPF lead to 9-7 after 5 innings of play. SPF went back to DiSalvo on the mound who, despite Cranford’s best efforts, was able to retire them in the 6th scoreless.
Heading into the bottom of the 7th, DiSalvo struck out the leadoff batter. After walking the next hitter, who stole both second and third, DiSalvo buckled down and needed only 3 pitches to record the second out of the inning. In a “Lou Brown” moment, the Cobra coaching staff “forgot the curve ball and gave them the heater” – which is all DiSalvo would need to retire the last batter of the game on 4 pitches sealing the Cobra victory. Final score, SPF Cobras 9, Cranford 7, Fall Championship complete.
Throughout the fall, SPF witnessed solid defensive action throughout the playoffs from contributors up and down the line up including speedy Mia Savare, who also made several solid defensive plays during the final two games of the playoffs, and Victoria Prizgar whose offensive contributions in the quarterfinal matchup against Summit were key to the Cobra success. Key deliveries, both offensively and defensively, came from Maddie Sobolewski, Sami Marcolina, Isabella Licata and Normandie Beversluis, who all helped propel the team to back-to-back season Championships.
Coach Jess Hulnik was elated with the success of the team which needed to battle back to defeat, not one, but two teams who beat up on them earlier in the season during their playoff run.
The SPF Cobras will be back in action in the D2 Parkway league next season. For inquiries on SPF softball or to seek information on future try outs, contact Jess Hulnik at firstname.lastname@example.org.