CEDAR GROVE, NJ - An impressive first inning offensive output by the Cedar Grove Softball Team resulted in a 19-0 victory over Belleville on Saturday and a ticket to the quarterfinals of the Essex County Tournament.
“You can’t overlook any team…I’m happy with my team, everybody got in a chance to get at-bats and in the field and now we have to focus on the second round,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach Nicole Velardi.
Cedar Grove was dominant in clutch situations with a 12-run bottom of the first inning. Nine different Lady Panthers scored in the inning capped off by a two run homerun from Daniella Cordasco. Each of the Cedar Grove runs was scored with two outs in the inning.
“It was pretty good it goes to show that no one gets nervous with two outs they just go up, they have a plan and they go hard,” said Rianna Marinelli.
For the Lady Panthers the rally was their biggest of the season. Perhaps the most impressive feat, more than the two out hits was the fact that the bottom of the order was able to be a catalyst for the surge. Kelly Toomey, Samantha Brancato, and Jules Cicala were instrumental in the teams’ 19-run output. The trio combined to drive in or score on 10 of the teams 19 runs for the game.
“The bottom of the order is mixed in with some freshman [to] some seniors so I’m really proud of what they’ve been doing. We work hard from March until now so I’m very pleased with them,” said Velardi.
The top of the order remained consistently good for Cedar Grove after some changes earlier this week. Gianna Kubu, Ava Mandala and Marinelli were able to put tremendous pressure on an opposing Belleville pitcher to increase her pitch count and get optimal pitches to hit. The trio combined for four hits on the game and five runs scored.
Marinelli has been particularly solid of late since moving to the three hole in the order. The senior has collected seven RBIs and seven runs scored in her last three games for the Lady Panthers.
“I was moved from leadoff to third these last few games and it’s definitely helped me a lot [by] taking a lot of pressure off me to get on base so I’m just working to do my job and drive the runs in as the third hitter,” said Marinelli.
The run support was a breath of fresh air for starting pitcher Mia Faieta who has been lights out this season. Faieta managed to strike out 10 batters in just five innings of no-hit ball as the game was then called due to a mercy ruling. For the sophomore it was business as usual as she’s struck out 10 or more in all but two games this year.
“We’ve got to make it easier for her, she does a lot on the mound, we have to have good defense and our bats have to come through. When we do score runs for her she gets a little more relaxed on the mound and then we start really having fun,” said Velardi.
Cedar Grove’s victory improves the team to 13-5 on the year as they’ve now won two in a row. They will look to continue their solid play and host the Quarterfinals on Saturday May 13 with an opponent of either Montclair or Livingston.
“We’ve just got to keep hitting the ball, see the ball, hit the ball because not many teams score runs on us so we’re going to have to be the ones to score,” said Marinelli.