Darren sums up the spring season best when he says it’s a sprint, not a marathon. Unlike the lengthier fall and winter seasons, spring just flies by. I mean, the season starts April 1 and if you’re still playing past June 1, it’s considered a good year. It seems like yesterday that I was in New Milford on Opening Day in snowy, rainy, absolutely brutal conditions for the Knights game against Secaucus. I remember Danielle Roesing went sleeveless that day — a toughness that was exemplified over the next two-plus months en route to the Patriots’ first Hudson county and sectional titles in program history.

So what else do I remember from the spring softball season? Let’s take a look. This took about a week to write… 

Ashley Sudol with The Record's Charlie McGill at Wednesday night's Athlete of the Week dinner.

Ashley Sudol with The Record’s Charlie McGill at Wednesday night’s Athlete of the Week dinner.

– Most recently, at Wednesday night’s Athlete of the Week dinner, Fair Lawn’s Ashley Sudol’s McGill Award speech really touched a lot of people in the crowd. There were definitely some tears shed from people listening to Sudol’s inspiring and touching story about dealing with the tragic loss of her mother, who died of lung cancer just prior to the start of the softball season. Last week, I had the privilege of sitting down with Ashley for an interview for my story in Thursday’s Record, and rarely do I become so emotionally invested in the subjects of my stories, but it’s impossible not to with Ashley. She’s inspiring, she’s resilient, and she spoke so strongly of all the hardships she’s faced since birth — not only to myself, but to the hundreds of people who gathered at Wednesday night’s dinner. It’s impossible not to like, and root for, Ashley Sudol. Nothing seems to ever slow her down or break her spirit.

- I remember the whole North Jersey softball community rallying behind and showing support for Park Ridge’s Emily Kline after taking a scary shot off the face during a game against Ramsey. It was amazing to see the support and prayers sent from literally all over North Jersey from players, coaches and teams via Twitter. I happened to be in attendance for the game, and it’s amazing she was back in the circle just two weeks later. A transfer from rival Midland Park, it was like Kline had been part of the Park Ridge family — or #PROnation, I should say — for years. Second baseman Martina McGee said it best: “When she got hurt, it was like we all got hurt.”

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IHA’s Steph Thomas went 29-2 and struck out 238 in 193 innings. She allowed just 10 earned runs all year and, at one point, threw 88 straight shutout innings.

- I remember the gutsy performance from Immaculate Heart’s Steph Thomas in the Bergen County tournament final. It was said to be a game-time decision on whether she was starting or not after being injured on a stolen base attempt one day prior, but, as I wrote a few weeks ago, if you know Steph Thomas, there was no shot she was missing this game. She proceeded to fire a two-hit shutout and retired the final 13 in a row in the 10-0 six-inning win over Indian Hills, which was capped, of course, by an RBI blast to the fence courtesy of Thomas. She became the second player ever to be the winning pitcher in three straight BCT finals. At this time next year, we might be talking about Steph Thomas as the state’s all-time most winningest pitcher. She already owns that title at IHA, with a program-best 82 career wins.

– I remember DePaul’s Ashley LaGuardia breaking down into tears after pitching the Spartans into the Passaic County final, just a few days after her grandfather had passed away. She said she was pitching that day for him, and would be doing the same in the PCT final. Two days later, LaGuardia and DePaul repeated as county champion, with LaGuardia firing probably the best game she threw all year — a two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts against Clifton. Already getting looks from Ivy League schools, LaGuardia — who just finished her junior year — has a bright future. She dealt with arm problems for much of this year, but when healthy, she’s a first team All-North Jersey kind of pitcher (which she was her sophomore year).

- I remember how unbelievably hard it was naming the first and second All-North Jersey teams. How’s this for a list of players who didn’t make either team… consider the following an unofficial Third Team All-North Jersey…

Pitchers: Rutherford’s Julie Sosnicki, Lyndhurst’s Casey Zdanek, Passaic Valley’s Kate Kallert, North Bergen’s Jess Feria; Catchers: Lakeland’s Allie Yoffee and Midland Park’s Michelle Passero; Infielders: Passaic Valley’s Jada Fields (1B), Ramapo’s Lexi Graber (1B), West Milford’s Vic Torp (2B/SS), Ramapo’s Caitlyn Hickey (SS) and Pequannock’s Nicole Hernandez (SS), IHA’s Cassidy Trause (3B), Bergen Tech’s Tara Spendley (3B); Outfielders: Indian Hills’ Kristen Waters, Ramsey’s Melanie Consiglio, Park Ridge’s Sam Vradenburg; DH: North Bergen’s Nerylix Cerda; Utility: Mahwah’s Julieanne Vesce and Indian Hills’ Nicole Leocata (SS). And I could keep going.

IndianHillsChamps

Indian Hills celebrating moments after capturing the Group 3 state title.

- I remember Indian Hills’ historic season, capped by a 4-2 win over Wall in the Group 3 state final for its second state championship in four years. Of course I remember all the state tournament walkoff hits from the trio of NicolesLeocata (vs. Montville), Mellone (vs. Ramapo) and Paiotti (vs. West Morris)– and all the great pitching performances from Devin Durando (the game vs. High Point stands out most); I remember the Braves holding hands prior to the state final; I remember all the delayed trips to their “winner’s circle” down the left field line because of my lengthy post game interviews and Indian Hills’ great coaching staff — Joe Leicht, Bob Alexander and Phil Lomenzo – never seeming to care at all. I remember the speeches delivered by the junior class to the departing seniors at the team’s season ending BBQ — Kelsey Coughlin‘s to Lindsay Pagano (one of the most underrated 1B in North Jersey this year) was one of my favorites. I remember the collective effort it took to beat Wall, the resiliency they showed vs. Ramapo, the toughness they showed vs. High Point. I remember Indian Hills AD Lorenzo Baratta calling the Braves a “Team of Destiny” while presenting the sectional title trophy, and that really seemed to fit the Braves perfectly during their state tourney run. I remember how proudly coach Leicht spoke of how together Indian Hills was — no matter age, grade, or role on the team. Everyone mattered, and everyone contributed in some fashion. What a group this was.

Twitter Takeover: Man, did Twitter explode this season or what? It got to the point where instead of looking over e-mails and our database for results, I was scouring Twitter most nights, scrolling through what seemed like dozens of mentions a few times per week. I remember right after DePaul won its Passaic County tournament semifinal game against West Milford, some Spartans players asked me what was going on in the other semifinal between Lakeland and Clifton. After sending out a simple tweet asking for a score, minutes later I was getting real-time play-by-play of the Mustangs’ late-inning rally to set up the DePaul-Clifton final, updating DePaul as it was happening. Speaking of Clifton, what a nice late-season run the Mustangs went on. Amanda Marakovitz was great all year. … Another instance, I remember standing near the Ramapo dugout during its sectional quarterfinal game against Pascack Valley. Ramapo parents and athletic director Ron Anello were as interested as what was going on at nearby Indian Hills — with the Braves locked in a 1-all battle with Montville — as they were with their own game vs. PV. Once the ‘Po-PV game went final (won by Ramapo, 5-0), the Raiders took to Twitter to find out what was going with their rivals. It was during post-game interviews when Ramapo found out Indian Hills had prevailed, 2-1, in 10 innings, setting up Part IV of the rivalry this season. … I also remember Twitter exploding after Paramus Catholic defeated Immaculate Heart to end the Blue Eagles’ 44-game winning streak, but I’ll have more on that in a bit.

Year of the Hashtag: Sticking with the Twitter theme, how many team hashtags were out there this year? Off the top of my head I remember a few:

Great shot of the Park Ridge crew by our staff photographer Don Smith.

- There was #PROnation in Park Ridge (coined by none other than 3B Shayna McDermott), as the Owls got off to a red-hot start led by pitcher/clean-up hitter Emily Kline, center fielder/100-hit member Sam Vradenburg and junior SS Alexis Criscuolo. Speaking of the Owls, I remember 2B Martina McGee making maybe the best play I saw all year on a ripped one-hopper to her left vs. Ridgefield Park with the go-ahead run on third late in the game, diving for it, fielding it cleanly, and firing a strike to home to get the runner and keep the score tied at 2. I also remember the disgusting Dill Pickle sunflower seeds they offered me one game… #Gross. Park Ridge should be good again next year, too, with Kline returning for her senior season.

- Then there was the #DirtyDozen in Midland Park — a small, but talented 12-girl bunch (no freshman or JV teams) which defied the odds en route to an impressive 24-3 season, including a trip to the BCT Elite 8. Katie Kontos is a name to keep an eye on going forward, along with Katie and Brianna Lelinho and Amanda Parker. It’ll be tough replacing the three departing seniors, though — catcher Michelle Passero (.490, 50 hits, 36 R, 17 RBI), 1B Tori Bell and OF Gabby Spatucci. I also can’t believe coach Ali Bryan won’t be back with Midland Park next year… what she did with this group this year was remarkable.

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IC coach Jeff Horohonich getting the celebratory shower after the Blue Wolves won the Non-Public B state title.

- I remember #ICgold — Immaculate Conception’s rallying cry all year, as the Blue Eagles were in pursuit of a state championship. Gold was the goal from the start, and seniors like Shannon Truppi (.463, 37 RBI, heading to Dominican), Caitlyn Hults and Melanie Quintanilla finally got their state title gold at season’s end after three trips to Toms River, with the help of some key underclassmen like the pair of freshmen, Sarah Piening and Andee Lupica, and two vital sophomores, including Player of the Year Erin Stacevicz and catcher Lea Georgatos. I remember Jeff Horohonich telling me after his 500th win he has to get back to .500 in state finals. After this year’s win, he’s 8-9 all-time.

- Then there were the #PartyCrashers in Secaucus, as the Patriots rallied around the pursuit of knocking off higher seeds come tournament time en route to an impressive 14-game winning streak late in the year, and Hudson County and North 1, Group 1 sectional titles (and they gave state finalist Saddle Brook all it could handle in the state semis, too). I remember them never wanting me to come to a game because they never won when I was there and how star shortstop Julia McClure relied on coach Cherryl Bott to play her personal equipment manager at times. McClure, by the way, had a great year and was a second team All-North Jersey selection. “They’re all a mess,” Bott said with a laugh before their state tournament run. “But they win.” And I have to mention the awesome year Danielle Roesing had on the mound for Secaucus. I’ve written it before, but throughout the year, a handful of coaches, including IC’s Horohonich, New Milford’s Mike Mayer and Paramus Catholic’s Frank Baldino all tell me how impressed they were with Roesing. She’ll be hard to replace next year.

Saddle Brook's Alexia Russo shown here after scoring the winning run in a 6-5 win over Secacus which sent the Falcons to Toms River for the Group 1 final.

Saddle Brook’s Alexia Russo shown here after scoring the winning run in a 6-5 win over Secacus which sent the Falcons to Toms River for the Group 1 final.

- I remember seeing #HoldTheRope from the Saddle Brook crew all year, though I never found out what that meant exactly. They held it all the way to Toms River, though. By the way, it’s unbelievable how Alexia Russo was kept off first team All-County. Did anyone see her numbers, both pitching and hitting?? The FDU-Madison-bound senior went 18-2 on the mound with a 1.19 ERA and batted .505 with 6 HR and 41 RBI for a state finalist. What more did she have to do? Anyway, Falcons coach Darren White already has started the countdown to Toms River for next year, as Lorena Alvarez, Danielle Archibold, Katie Garbarino, Ashley Russo and Taryn DiGiacomo will likely be the ones expected to lead them back to the state final.

- And one final hashtag I remember seeing a few times was #OneMoFoPo, which, of course, was Ramapo. Speaking of the Raiders, they only delivered on half the B&B I was looking for this year. JK McAvoy came through with the bracelet, but I guess I’ll wait to wait ’til next year for an invite to their burrito tailgate. A team with eight departing seniors, Ramapo will certainly have a different look next year. The way the Raiders season ended in Indian Hills was heartbreaking, but if it’s any consolation, they gave the eventual state champion Braves literally all they could handle in the sectional semifinals, and certainly were good enough to win the Group 3 title. Sophie Nochta and Melanie Psota both had great years on the mound and Caitlyn Hickey was as smooth as it gets at shortstop and a major threat in the middle on the lineup. Psota, Alyssa Cantalupo (great leadoff hitter), Ciana Moschetto (made some big plays in RF this year) and Katelyn Sala will be the only returning starters for ‘Po next year.

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Rutherford’s Ally Paskas blasted a North Jersey best 13 home runs this year and finished with 33 for her career. She batted .437 with 48 RBI and 38 runs scored this season.

Best In-Game Memories: Rutherford’s Ally Paskas‘ home run in Hawthorne, which Hawthorne parents — some of which who had seen four years worth of home games — said was the furthest ball they’d ever seen hit there before. It was just one of Paskas’ school record 33 career home runs she hit in her career. She’ll be heading to Wilkes this fall to play volleyball and softball.

Fair Lawn’s Jen Calabrase‘s two-out, two-run go ahead home run to lift the Cutters past Lakeland and keep their undefeated record in tact.

Indian Hills’ Nicole Leocata‘s game-ending play in the hole at shortstop to preserve the Braves’ 1-0 win over Pascack Valley with the game-tying run at third to get their 26-game win streak started. She had another pretty big game-ending play a few months later…

Ramsey’s Jess Juhlin‘s game-ending double play on a line drive right back to her to preserve the Rams’ 5-3 win over Paramus Catholic and send Ramsey to the BCT Elite 8. Juhlin ended the year going 18-5 with a 1.59 ERA.

IHA’s Ally Vergona‘s monster game in the BCT semis vs. Mahwah, ripping double after double after double to propel the Blue Wolves back to the championship game. Some other cool Vergona links from this year — her signing with UNC-Greensboro and after her final high school game in this year’s Super 36 All-Star game. She’s gonna be missed next year at IHA.

Paramus Catholic’s Stephanie Triola‘s inside-the-park-home run at DePaul, where she slipped and fell rounding third and actually crawled to home plate. The Paladins bench was cracking up after that one. Thanks to Triola and Janelle Marchesani in the middle of the order, Paramus Catholic really emerged as one of the most dangerous teams in North Jersey during the second half of the year.

Mahwah’s Taylor Alexander‘s 8th inning inside-the-park-home run in Mahwah’s state tournament win over Lakeland, immediately following ToniLyn Brindisi‘s game-tying two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Alexander said getting to play in all these big games this year was “like Christmas” after where the T-Birds had come from as recently as two years ago.

The incredible Indian Hills three-run rally in the bottom of the 7th to come back and tie Ramapo in the North 1, Group 3 semifinals. Kristen Waters got it started innocently enough with a leadoff walk, Maddie Levine (who had an unbelievable 17 assists from RF this year) was hit by a pitch with two outs, Shelby Allen delivered a clutch RBI double, and then… craziness. Back to back wild pitches while trying to intentionally walk Nicole Leocata allowed Levine and Allen to score and tie the game. Nicole Mellone ended it with an RBI single to score Karley Jo Greulich one inning later, and the comeback for the ages was complete. Unbelievable.

Lakeland coach Laura King paying her dues after the Lancers clinched a share of this year's Big North XXX title with a win in Fair Lawn.

Lakeland coach Laura King paying her dues after the Lancers clinched a share of this year’s Big North Independence title with a win in Fair Lawn. That’s Jen Stoll, on the winning end of the wager, enjoying the walk back to the bus.

Miscellaneous Memories: I remember after Lakeland clinched a share of the league title in Fair Lawn (Jen Stoll and Allie Yoffee had big games that day), coach Laura King had to pay her dues with the team by carrying literally all the equipment back to the bus in Fair Lawn. … I remember after one game, Indian Hills’ Nicole Leocata was driving around campus in a golf cart. … I remember Passaic Valley’s Jada Fields hitting a ball at Lakeland that would have cleared any field with a fence in North Jersey. She’s got bigtime power. … I remember the pair of athletic and impressive plays Ramsey center fielder Melanie Consiglio (.989 fielding percentage this year) made in the BCT quarterfinals against IHA. She was so good all year, and will be playing field hockey at Franklin and Marshall next year. Sticking with Ramsey, I remember them tagging Park Ridge for 16 runs in a regular season game. Nicole Mazzella (.412 BA, 26 RBI) and Kayla Gravalis (.398 BA, 20 RBI) really stood out that night in the middle of the Rams lineup. … I remember Indian Hills’ Devin Durando‘s heads up cut off play in the BCT Final Four to limit a potential Immaculate Conception multiple-run rally to just one run in the 2-1 win. That win sent the Braves back to the BCT Final for the third time in four years. … Though I wasn’t there, I remember Dwight-Englewood beating Leonia, 27-26, after trailing by 12 in the 6th. … And I remember catching the tail end of Marissa Spinuzzi‘s masterpiece in Old Tappan to send Fair Lawn to the BCT Elite 8. Spinuzzi struck out 11 and allowed one-hit in the complete game shutout — one of 10 games this year that Spinuzzi allowed two hits or less. She finished with 218 strikeouts in 162 innings and set a new Fair Lawn single season school record with her 0.69 ERA. … I remember Ridgefield Park handing Park Ridge its first loss of the year at the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament. Pitcher Irene Kontogiannis was solid in the circle, and RP used patience at the plate to strike for two runs in the 7th for the 3-2 win, capped by Kristie Visaggio‘s bases loaded RBI walk. Mook Iannacone laughed when asked if his team was inconsistent, and saying this win really was significant for the program. … I remember IHA’s Rachel Pollard and Steph Thomas fired back-to-back perfect games in a two-day span on May 6-7. … I remember Bergen County sending four teams to Toms River for the state finals for only the second time ever, including two from the little ol’ NJIC Meadowlands (IC and Saddle Brook).

IHA's Ally Vergona

IHA’s Ally Vergona hit .436 with 29 RBI, 20 runs, 17 doubles, three triples and four home runs this year, and won 115 of 130 games during her IHA career.

- I remember watching Game 1 of the HOFS Classic at Saddle Brook with IHA’s Anthony LaRezza and PC’s Frank Baldino. I remember LaRezza, along with former IHA great Christine Doyle, started talking about an All-Time IHA team, and I have most of the names that were mentioned, but they didn’t really finish or finalize the list. I think they agreed that the following would make the team, though: P Steph Thomas, C Ally Vergona, 1B/P Christine Doyle, 2B Carly Piccinich (Jill Clementi, who I’m pretty sure also played 2B, was mentioned, and my notes are a mess from this, but I think LaRezza wanted to put Clementi at third), SS Christy Dellapenta, and Krystle Henry‘s name was mentioned. Give it one more year and current SS Daniella Ibarra will likely be in the discussion.

- I remember Indian Hills and Ramapo meeting four times this year, which Leicht said he didn’t think he’s ever seen in all his years coaching, in any sport. They were all classics, too. Staying with Indian Hills, I remember there was like a two-week stretch in the regular season when Braves catcher and St. Francis-bound senior Nicole Paiotti was breaking another school record seemingly every game. She finished with five program records, and was close to a few more. Among the broken records included hits (166), RBI (110), HR (13) and doubles (45). … I remember New Milford’s Carly Lesko also putting up huge numbers all year and coach Mike Mayer excited to rattle off her stats each week for our Player of the Year watch. 55 RBI?! Lesko was certainly in the running for the POTY, and will likely be again next year, too.

A few weeks after picking up win No. 400, Saddle Brook coach Darren White led the Falcons to the Group 1 state final. This is the celebration after that win.

A few weeks after picking up win No. 400, Saddle Brook coach Darren White led the Falcons to the Group 1 state final. This is the celebration after that win.

Coaching Milestones: From what I can remember, we had IC’s Jeff Horohonich pick up his 500th career win and Saddle Brook’s Darren White eclipse win No. 400. At the All-County dinner, White announced the milestones and saved his milestone for last and said, “The coaching staff at Saddle Brook got their 400th win.” That’s the kind of guy White is. We also had St. Mary’s Steve Mondadori and Pompton Lakes’ Karyn Hennessy both reach the 200-win milestone, and Ramsey’s Chris Caserta surpass the 100-win plateau. Ramapo’s Leslie Stephen is two wins shy of 400 and Mahwah’s Craig Nielsen is 17 wins shy of 400 as well.  Old Tappan’s Melissa Landeck is 11 wins short of 200 career wins and Paramus Catholic’s Frank Baldino is 31 wins away from 500. And here’s Darren’s full updated Coaching Victories List.

Interviews of the Year: I’ve got some good ones… Indian Hills Kristen Waters and Nicole Leocata (“Climbing Mountains”), Immaculate Conception’s Sarah Piening and Erin Stacevicz (non-stop laughing for five minutes), DePaul’s Ashley LaGuardia and Bella Jachera (“It’s good, it’s great, it’s good.”), one with Pequannock’s Christina Brizek and Maryann Goodwin done in the middle of a torrential downpour… on Pequannock’s bus. I remember it raining so hard Pequannock’s bus driver generously drove me to my car once I was done, which was only about 30 feet away.

Freshman Sarah Piening was in the middle of Immaculate Conception's state title run.

Freshman Sarah Piening was in the middle of Immaculate Conception’s state title run.

Freshmen of the Year: I think I’ll give the unofficial top honor to Immaculate Conception pitcher and All-County selection Sarah Piening (the only frosh named to this year’s All-County team), who led the Blue Wolves to their first state championship in program history, and also pitched IC into the BCT Final Four for the first time ever, too. Her performance vs. Fair Lawn in the BCT Elite 8 was one of her best of the year. Piening wasn’t the only freshman to make a name for herself this year, though. IHA first baseman Emilie Cieslak seemed like she was getting big hits any time I saw the Blue Eagles play this year, Indian Hills 2B Nicole Mellone is only going to get better for the Braves over the next three years… and she’s already pretty darn good and Saddle Brook’s Taryn DiGiacomo is a name to keep an eye on for the Falcons. Darren White called DiGiacomo his “nice little lefty surprise” this year. There’s a few others worth mentioning, too: Immaculate Conception’s Andee Lupica was great any time she took the mound for IC and played a great third base and added a nice bat to the lineup; DePaul’s Danielle Trongone stepped right in and was asked to fill the shoes of the graduated Emily Cutler at shortstop and did so superbly; Pascack Valley’s Alex Pleasic was a threat both on the mound and at the plate for the Indians, who had a few nice upset wins this year, including a big win over Paramus in the state tournament; Demarest’s pair of twins, Veronia and Victoria Corcoran, seem to have Demarest on the right path, and we saw a glimpse of what could be in store after Demarest’s upset win over third-seeded Passaic Valley in this year’s state tournament; I only saw Northern Highlands once, but Sarah Gunderson was a hitting machine vs. New Milford, leading the Highlanders to a BCT first-round upset win over the eventual sectional finalist Knights.

Best I Didn’t See: North Bergen’s Jessica Feria and Nerylix Cerda, both who had great years and I wish I saw them play this year. Same goes for Bergen Tech’s Tara Spendley and Mel Hrbek, both who played major roles in the Knights league title. Bergen Tech also had one of the best-run Twitters this year, which I checked frequently. And Holy Angels’ Lauren Saxenian… I really wish I saw her pitch. The Angels really turned things around late in the year after suffering so many close losses to start the year. And Saxenian was a big part of the turnaround.

PC pitcher Samantha Buse was the only pitcher this season to shut out IHA.

PC pitcher Samantha Buse was the only pitcher this season to shut out IHA.

Biggest Wins of the Year (in no particular order): First, Paramus Catholic’s 1-0 win over IHA to snap the Blue Eagles’ 44-game winning streak was the biggest “Wow” result of the year. IHA had kept its streak alive with impressive wins against High Point, Toms River East, Livingston, Allentown and Ramapo to start the year, and even beat the Paladins, 11-0, on Opening Day. It was a few days before IHA-Immaculate Conception in what was expected to be a battle of the unbeatens, but PC spoiled that plan. Samantha Buse fired a two-hit shutout with three strikeouts, and PC made all the plays behind her. Buse’s performance marked the only time this season that Immaculate Heart was shut out. “This is the type of moment I will never forget and will remember forever and I have my team to thank for that #pcsb,” Buse tweeted that night. Paramus Catholic provided Buse with all the run support she would need in the second inning when Janelle Marchesani doubled and later scored on a Samantha Held RBI single. We never did get Part III in the county or state tournaments, though.

Mahwah 6, Saddle Brook 2 (BCT Round of 16): Mahwah will probably remember this one as the game that got them going in what would eventually become an improbable run to both the BCT Final Four and the Group 2 semifinals. Taylor Alexander tied the game in the fifth with a two-run single, Katie Clarke followed with a go-ahead RBI single, and Anna Nielsen ripped a three-run HR to give Danielle Iacovo all the runs she would need. Iacovo finished with 14 strikeouts.

Secaucus 1, Whippany Park 0 (North 2, Group 1 final): What a big win on the road for Secaucus, up against the three-time defending sectional champion and reigning Group 1 state champion Whippany Park. The Pats won their first sectional title in program history behind Danielle Roesing‘s four-hit shutout, and pushed across the lone run of the game on a two-out bases loaded RBI walk from Lauren Guillen to score Ariana Simon in the top of the fifth.

Immaculate Conception 6, Sacred Heart 4 (Non-Public B state final): Earlier in the year, I asked IC coach Jeff Horohonich if a pair of freshmen pitchers, Sarah Piening and Andee Lupica, could lead the Blue Wolves to a state title. He said, without hesitation, “Absolutely.” Sure enough, it was Piening on the mound for the state final, slamming the door shut for IC’s first state championship in program history. Erin Stacevicz had a big game with three hits, two RBI and two runs and Gabby Slade broke a 4-all tie in the top of the fourth with a go-ahead RBI single. “Nothing was going to stop us from achieving our goal and bringing home that gold,” Stacevicz said.

Indian Hills 6, Ramapo 5 (North 1, Group 3 semifinal): Probably the Game of the Year. Or at least the one that people are going to remember most, especially in Indian Hills.

New Milford 4, Cedar Grove 3 (North 1, Group 1 quarterfinal): A huge win for the Knights against the two-time defending North 1, Group 1 sectional champions, capped by Carly Lesko‘s walk-off RBI double to score Erin Bigger in the bottom of the eighth. “When we needed her to come up big in the eighth, she came up huge,” coach Mike Mayer said. “That’s as clutch as it gets right there.”

Midland Park 2, Paramus 1 (BCT quarterfinals): Some questioned whether Group 1 Midland Park warranted the No. 4 seed in the BCT, but this win showed the Panthers deserved to be considered among the best in the county with a win over Paramus — a high-profile and consistently solid Group 3 school. Katie Kontos took a perfect game into the sixth before settling on a two-hitter. Brianna Lelinho broke a scoreless tie in the 6th with a clutch two-out, two-run double. “Oh my goodness,” Kontos said. “Clutch hit.”

Others worth mentioning: Lyndhurst defeating Rutherford, 3-1, in the North 2, Group 2 semifinal (the Casey Zdanek and Julie Schneidenbach show); Mahwah defeating Ramsey, 3-2, in the North 1, Group 2 semifinal. I remember we couldn’t get in touch with Nielsen after this game, but Iacovo ended the game with a bases loaded strikeout and Katie Clarke had 2 RBI; Clifton’s pair of upset wins in the state tournament, first against Lakeland in the PCT semifinal, then against Fair Lawn, 1-0, in the first round of the state tournament. The Mustangs gave Livingston all it could handle in the sectional semifinals, too, in a 2-0 loss to the state power; IHA’s 1-0 win over Mount St. Dominic to send the Blue Eagles to Toms River. Rachel Pollard went 3-for-3 in this one and drove in the lone run of the game in the 5th.

2013 CHAMPIONS LIST
League
Big North Liberty: Bergen Tech and Clifton (co-champs)
Big North Freedom: Indian Hills
Big North Patriot: Ramsey
Big North United: Immaculate Heart
Big North Independence: Lakeland
Big North National: Old Tappan
Big North American: Dumont
NJIC Colonial: Rutherford
NJIC Liberty: Lyndhurst
NJIC Meadowlands: Immaculate Conception
NJIC Patriot: Midland Park
NJAC Independence: Pequannock
Hudson Coviello: North Bergen
County
Bergen
: Immaculate Heart defeats Indian Hills, 10-0. (More: Full BCT Review)
Passaic: DePaul defeats Clifton, 8-0. (More: Spartans Repeat)
Hudson: Secaucus defeats North Bergen, 4-2.
Sectional
North 1, Group 1
: Saddle Brook defeats New Milford, 5-0.
North 1, Group 2: Mahwah defeats Pequannock, 3-0.
North 1, Group 3: Indian Hills defeats High Point, 1-0.
North 2, Group 1: Secaucus defeats Whippany Park, 1-0.
North, Non-Public A: Immaculate Heart defeats Mount St. Dominic, 1-0.
North, Non-Public B: Immaculate Conception defeats Newark Academy, 8-2.
State Runners-Up
Group 1
: Saddle Brook beats Secaucus, 6-5 – loses to Haddon Heights, 5-3.
Non-Public A: Immaculate Heart loses to St. John Vianney, 4-2.
State Champions
Group 3
: Indian Hills defeats West Morris, 2-1 – defeats Wall, 4-2.
Non-Public B: Immaculate Conception defeats Sacred Heart, 6-4.

The Record Final Softball Top 25
1. Immaculate Heart (31-2)
2. Indian Hills (32-3)
3. Immaculate Conception (30-2)
4. Mahwah (21-11)
5. Saddle Brook (28-4)
6. Pequannock (22-5)
7. Ramapo (18-10)
8. Ramsey (24-5)
9. Paramus Catholic (15-11)
10. Secaucus (24-7)
11. Midland Park (24-3)
12. DePaul (15-7)
13. Lyndhurst (20-8)
14. New Milford (20-9)
15. Rutherford (23-6)
16. Fair Lawn (18-8)
17. Pascack Hills (18-7)
18. Lakeland (18-8)
19. North Bergen (20-6)
20. Old Tappan (15-9)
21. Northern Highlands (14-12)
22. Park Ridge (18-8)
23. Clifton (15-12)
24. Passaic Valley (17-7)
25. Pascack Valley (11-13)

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