Hillsborough knocks down Watchung Hills in Somerset County Softball Final
BRIDGEWATER — It took 13 innings and more than three hours of intense softball for the Hillsborough High School softball team to lose to Watchung Hills in a regular season game on Tuesday. The Raiders needed just seven innings to return the favor in Friday night’s Somerset County Tournament final, thanks to another brilliant pitching performance from their superstar ace and some quick early strikes that helped to melt the pressure.
Junior right-hander Sarah Davenport threw another absolute gem, shooting a three-hit shutout, walking none and striking out 15, and senior first baseman Diya Patel provided the clutch, giving her team a A quick lead in the first set and an insurance run in the third and third seeds, the Raiders did the rest, claiming their second consecutive county championship with a 3-0 win over top-seeded Watchung Hills and previously undefeated, at Torpey Field.
“It’s a great team. We won, but we don’t take anything away from them, they’re a great team. And sometimes losing (a game like that on Tuesday) is almost better than winning it,” said Hillsborough coach Cheryl Iaione, whose team lost 3-2 to the Warriors in 13 innings. Tuesday in a scoreless game until the international tiebreaker rule kicked in. for round 10.
“For us to lose this game like we did and then somehow find a way to beat Montgomery when we were dead in the water (a 4-3 half win -Wednesday’s county final, despite leading 3-0 to seventh), it was a total team effort. This team is really united, they stay together, they never get discouraged and we learn from everything. It’s one of the best teams I’ve ever had in terms of learning things. I challenged them before the game. I said ‘Each of you will have something to do with the result tonight, whether it’s at home plate, (in the circle), on the field or in the dugout.’ And each of them did their job tonight.
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The key was the first lead. Tuesday’s game had just five hits between the teams for the first nine innings, before they traded runs in the 10th and 11th after the tiebreaker rule began, before Watchung Hills won on wild terrain in the 13th inning. With Patel’s first heroic acts on Friday night, the pressure to break through and support their ace eased for the Raiders early in the game.
Fast hitter Clay’le Van Ness started the fight with a curry single at third base. After Warriors junior starter Amanda Medina retired the next two batters, with Van Ness stealing second base on the second puff, Patel delivered, fielding an RBI single to right center to give Boro a 1-0 advantage .
After Davenport escaped a block with a base-loaded out in the first inning with three straight outs, and Hillsborough couldn’t capitalize after loading the bases with one out in the second, the Raiders found their cushion. and a giant exhalation.
Claire Marcinek started the top of the third inning with a single to center field, then advanced on a passed ball. That brought Patel, who delivered again, ripping an RBI shot into right field to chase home and make it 2-0. After Tori Fantozzi walked, Josie Marcinek added another insurance run, ripping an RBI single to center field to make it 3-0.
“It definitely helped take the pressure off. I was able to pull it off for my team,” Patel said. “I think we came back very hungry (after Tuesday) and knew what we wanted, and we were able to come together and do it.”
“I told them we couldn’t go 13 innings,” said Iaione, who saw firsthand on Tuesday what Watchung Hills’ speed and penchant for small balls can do in a tight game with a starting runner. one inning in scoring position. “Because bunting gets different when you’re in the international tiebreaker. We wanted to tackle them early. And for Clay’le (Van Ness) to fly second and Diya to come in, that’s what we had need. And hitting is contagious. It showed everyone else they could do it.
For Davenport, it wasn’t just scoring early that helped ease her pressure to be perfect. All five of Hillsborough’s losses have come to elite teams by one or two points, so the sense of urgency to put points on the board against good teams has certainly hung over the Raiders this year. On Friday, it was simply being able to have runners on base that eased the burden, something Hillsborough only managed to do four times in the first nine innings on Tuesday.
“I’m not even making points, it’s just to put the girls on base, because we struggled last time against them,” Davenport said. “We made our adjustments well, and not only did that relax me (in the circle), but it also relaxed everyone. They knew, ok, we have a little comfort. Against a team like Watchung, just being at the base can relax you.
Josie Marcinek’s hit chased Medina, who ended up allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk over 2 frames, striking out six, and Watchung Hills coach Dominique Ocello brought in the co -as Jules Raymond, who had gone nine scoreless innings with three hits. against Hillsborough on Tuesday, before the Raiders earned an unearned run at the top of 10th, thanks to the tiebreaker rule. Raymond walked in and was caught in the act of stealing on an attempt to score on a wild short pitch, plus two strikeouts to make it a three-run game.
From there, the pitchers closed the door. Not only did Davenport continue to dominate — she only allowed two base runners the rest of the way, allowing hits for Sam Miller (her second of the day) and pincher Kaitlyn Lee — Raymond was also on point. . The Watchung Hills junior allowed just one hit in five innings, scored none and struck out nine.
“I’m very proud of my team,” said Watchung Hills coach Dominique Ocello, whose club fell 16-1. “The fact that we can even be in the league game for the county is unbelievable. I know we haven’t been here for six years, so the fact that we’ve done so well all season, that we’ve come together and just being in the championship game was so special to all of us.
0 – Traditional Shots Watchung Hills has passed Davenport in just under 20 innings this week. All seven hits she gave up on Tuesday and all three hits the Warriors had on Friday night came on slaps or bunts.
8 – Somerset County Championships won by Iaione since taking over the program in 1997.
10 – Somerset Hillsborough County Championships won as a program
40 – Strikeouts Davenport racked up just under 20 innings against Watchung Hills this week. She had 25 in over 12 innings on Tuesday.
WHAT THIS MEANS
It’s the first time in the last five tries that Hillsborough has beaten Watchung Hills in the TBS final. The Warriors beat Boro in the 2002 Final, before the Raiders won the next three SCT titles, and they met again in the 2012, 2013 and 2015 Finals, all won by Watchung Hills. Boro beat the Warriors in both 2003 and 2004 championship games, with the 2004 tie going 19 innings over two days and ending 1-0. This was before the international tiebreaker was installed in New Jersey college softball.
THEY SAID IT
“I’ve been waiting for Diya to do this for a long time. She’s a great player and a great hitter, and Diya is a very smart young lady. She’s a National Merit Scholar. She’s our Somerset County Scholar Athlete, she’s going to Duke, so there’s no softball in her future. So to see her succeed now that she’s ending her softball career is heartwarming and she deserves it, because she works so hard. Hillsborough coach Cheryl Iaione on her senior first baseman’s clutch performance on Friday night
Hillsborough, which has seven conference games remaining, including another against Watchung Hills, will open its state tournament on Tuesday against Bridgewater-Raritan, looking to make another deep run after appearing in extra innings in the final of the group 4 of the state last season. If Hillsborough beats BR and Watchung Hills manages Piscataway in their North 2 Group 4 opener, those teams will meet next Friday at Watchung Hills High School. The Warriors have six division games to play as they bid to win the division title from Delaware.
Writer Simeon Pincus can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SimeonPincus and at www.Facebook.com/SimeonPincusCN.