FAIRFIELD, NJ - Despite falling to Mount Saint Dominic in the final round of the Essex County Tournament (ECT) on Saturday, 3-0, an impressive all-around effort based off fundamentals resulted in a 3-0 West Essex victory over Cedar Grove on Friday.
“It’s nice to be here [in the championship game], it’s nice to get there, when you get there everything is icing on the cake,” said West Essex head coach Andrea Mondadori-Llauget.
West Essex broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the second inning by scratching out three runs in “small ball” fashion. After pitcher Sami Huetter reached on a walk, her courtesy runner Alexa Liggieri got into scoring position with a steal. After a sacrifice and an error left Liggieri at third with one out, she utilized heads-up base running to score on a wild pitch for the games’ first and decisive run.
“We wanted to get on base and be aggressive and move runners into scoring position,” said Mondadori-Llauget.
The Knights knew they would have to maximize their opportunities against Cedar Grove pitcher Mia Faieta, who did not give up much. They proceeded to load the bases in the second inning and pad their lead with a single from senior captain Alexa Vardiman. The two-run single gave West Essex a 3-0 lead and Vardiman her fourth and fifth RBI of the tournament.
“I said to myself, 'She’s not throwing that many good strikes so if I get anything close to a good strike I’m going to swing at it,'” said Vardiman.
Cedar Grove managed to stop the bleeding thanks to Faieta’s overpowering pitching. Despite giving up three runs, two of which were unearned, Faieta struck out 13 West Essex batters and allowed only two singles for the day. The sophomore ultimately struck out 10 or more in all three county games.
“She’s fantastic,” said Mondadori-Llauget of Faieta’s ability to play the position.
Huetter managed the rare feat of out-dueling her Cedar Grove counterpart in the contest. Huetter collected seven strikeouts of her own and allowed three its in blanking the Lady Panther lineup.
“[Huetter] always pitches well,” said Vardimann of her fellow captain. "[When she receives run support] it gives her more confidence and she’ll throw better."
The Lady Panthers know this feeling all too well, as West Essex ousts the team from the ECT for the second consecutive season. With the loss to the Mount on Saturday, however, West Essex, drops to 21-5 on the year with and loses the County Champion title.