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.
“[Olivia] Spinella plays a huge role on my team, she’s a junior she knows what it’s about…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,” said Velardi.
Nicole 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.
“When coach told me to go in I just put a helmet on, I grabbed a bat and I was like ‘this is your opportunity you can do it’ and I had full confidence in myself,” said Spinella.
Spinella gripped the bat tightly and promptly drilled a pitch deep to left centerfield, over the wall for a 2-0 Lady Panther lead and eventual game-winning hit. The clutch two-out performance will be something Spinella will always remember second only to her State Title last season.
“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 was brilliant allowing just three hits in a shutout where she struck out 12 Livingston batters.
“I was just going through all my pitches and things were working,” said Faieta.
Livingston came into the game a very formidable opponent. The now 8-12 Livingston squad has had some solid victories. Pitcher Jess Gorman did her best to equal Faieta by allowing a mere five hits and just two runs over six innings. The six seeded Lady Lancers were struggling of late, but could not have been overlooked according to Cedar Grove’s Head Coach.
“It wasn’t an easy game for us, Livingston is a great team, they’re always well coached and I just thought we wanted it a little more today,” said Velardi.
Cedar Grove improves to 15-6 on the season as they’ve won three of their last four games. They will now head to two-seeded West Essex in the ECT Semifinals looking to exact revenge on a team that beat them 1-0 earlier this year. The Lady Panthers are embracing the underdog mentality.
“There’s no pressure on us, the pressure is on them. We’ve got to go there and we have to execute. We have to hit the ball and the only way we’re going to win is if we hit,” said Velardi.