Passaic Valley rolls into Passaic County final, DePaul bashes its way in by Darren Cooper of The Record
WANAQUE – Passaic Valley is in the Passaic County Tournament softball final for the first time since 2006.
Sophomore Shana Donnelly clobbered a grand slam in the fourth inning as the Hornets defeated Lakeland 15-2 Friday night at Back Beach Park. Hornets senior pitcher Alyssa Bernardo shook off a rough start to finish with six strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit after the first inning.
“I’m not trying to make excuses but the first ball that I had was heavier, it was a different ball, then they gave me a new ball and it was so much lighter,” said Bernardo. “I just had to adjust to that real quick and it was fine. All my pitches were working today.”
The Lancers were playing without three regulars because it was the school’s junior formal event, but coach Laura Junta did not use that as an excuse.
“I am proud of the girls. It is what it is. We are not going to put our heads down. I am proud of the way my young girls came out,” said Junta. “We are going to be fine.”
The start of the game was delayed over 30 minutes while both teams waited for one of the umpires to arrive. It was Lakeland who got on the board first as Lexa Reiff smoked a two-run double with two outs to put the Lancers ahead 2-0.
Passaic Valley answered right back as Alex Ward mashed a two-run home run to straightaway center field to make it 2-2, and Bernardo followed up with a two-run double to put the Hornets on top 4-2.
“In my best games no one scores on me in the first inning, so I was a little nervous, but when we got ahead, I just knew we were going to win,” said Bernardo.
In the bottom of the fourth, Lakeland’s pitchers unraveled, walking multiple batters. Donnelly made it 12-2 with a huge blast to left, Sam Amico also delivered an RBI single also in the inning.
After the game, the Hornets huddled and sang happy birthday to both Amico and sophomore Bella Guarente who were celebrating their birthdays Friday.
Passaic Valley coach Kathy Hill was a senior on the last Hornets team to win the county title in 1988. She said the game was at Wayne Hills on a Saturday afternoon and joked that the players on her team probably had no idea (Bernardo said she did know).
The 2018 final is scheduled for Monday at Back Beach Park at 7 p.m.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Hill. “These seniors deserve it. It’s all about them and this team. We just had to play our game.”
DEPAUL 10, WEST MILFORD 5: DePaul bashed four home runs and will get a chance to win its unprecedented seventh straight county title Monday night.
“This is the team that we knew that we had, that we tried to wake up all season,” said Spartans coach Sue Parler. “Tonight was our wake-up call.”
The game was knotted at three going into the fifth when Abby Zampese led off the Spartans’ half of the frame with a deep shot to center field. After two costly West Milford errors led to another Spartans run, Gianna DiPiano drilled a three-run blast to right field to make it 8-3.
“I was crying on the bases,” said DiPiano, a Ringwood resident. “That was my first home run of the season.”
West Milford, the top seed, would counter with two runs in the fifth, including a mammoth solo home run by Jessica Perucki that had to be one of the longest balls ever hit at Back Beach, but the Highlanders’ offense fizzled late. DePaul senior pitcher Summer Ramundo had seven strikeouts – she had 18 in last year’s county final against the Highlanders.
“It’s unfortunate that two quality teams had to meet in the semifinals and it’s unfortunate that one of the two had to lose,” said Parler.
The game saw six home runs total, and eight extra base hits. The two teams combined for four errors. Parler said her team is not usually a home run hitting club.
“Uh, no,” she said. “But we have some pretty solid bats and when you put the power on the ball that Perucki does when she pitches the ball can really fly.”