Ridgewood speeds past Holy Angles in quarterfinals by Cory Doviak of northjerseysports.com

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – A good coach like Ridgewood’s Patti Auger knows how to suit her offensive strategies to the strengths of her team in any given year, but there is one particular style that she prefers to coach. When team speed is a team strength, Auger rarely holds up a stop sign.

“As a coach, what is there not to love about having speed up and down the lineup? For me it is one of the most fun things to coach,” said Auger. “And we have a few of them that have the ability to put pressure on defenses.”

One of them with the ability to light up the basepaths is Kiera Boucher, Ridgewood’s leftfielder who bats in the middle of the lineup but flies around like a leadoff hitter. That came in handy when Boucher, hitting in the No. 5 hole, was the first to bat in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s Bergen County Tournament Round of 16 game against Holy Angels.

Boucher got down a bunt to the pitcher’s left, beat the play at first base and never stopped running. An error on the throw sent Boucher first to third and another on the relay back into the infield allowed Boucher to slide in safely at home plate to open the scoring in 12th-seeded Ridgewood’s 9-0 victory on the turf at Immaculate Heart Academy.

“It is really important to put pressure on the defense and just see what happens. If you don’t put the pressure on, nothing is going to happen. You have to make them make a play,” said Boucher, who was 3-for-4 in the game with 2 runs scored, an RBI and three stolen bases, all of them in the Maroon’s seven-run fourth inning. “I know that I do have some speed, so I might as well use it and utilize it for the good of our team as a whole. I try to get things going.”

Madeline Barone had one of the two hits for Holy Angels, which fell to 14-7 on the season.

Before Ridgewood (12-8) broke the game open in the fourth, it laid the foundation in that second inning that Boucher set up. Chloe Lennon smacked a triple into right centerfield and scored on Frankie Barbera’s single to left to make it 2-0.

Meanwhile, Ridgewood starting pitcher, Lizzy Hannafey coasted through the first three innings facing just two batters over the minimum. She hit the first batter she faced, AHA’s Jennifer McGann, and walked Isabella Westervelt with two outs in the second inning, but neither did any damage and Hannafey found herself with plenty of wiggle room after her team batted in the top of the fourth.

The Maroons pounded out seven hits and sent 11 hitters to the plate in the fourth and scored seven times to put the game on the brink of ending early. Again it was Boucher that sparked the rally as she left off with a clean single up the middle, stole second and third base and scored when Lennon (2-for-3, R, RBI, 3B) knocked a single back through the box.  Lennon scored on Maddie Blood’s safety squeeze before Lizzie Weston, Payton Angus and Kristen Yee all single in succession to load the bases with two outs. Mia Kim then came through with a two-run single to make it 7-0.

After Alli Olsen beat out an infield single, Boucher came up for the second time in the inning and singled for the second time. She then stole second for her third stolen base of the frame that ended with the Maroons comfortably in front, 9-0.

Lizzie Hannafey threw a two-hit shutout for Ridgewood, which will play IHA in the quarterfinals next weekend.

Hannafey never let Holy Angels get comfortable as she went the distance on a two-hitter. She struck out four, walked two and got the win as the Maroons move on to face No. 5 seed IHA in next weekend’s much-delayed quarterfinal round. IHA handed Ridgewood a 7-0 loss when the two teams met during the regular season.

“I love that my team is always backing me up with the bats and in the field, too. I could just let them put the ball in play and they will make the plays behind me,” said Hannafey. “This win gives us a whole lot of confidence, but we know IHA is next and we know we are going to have a tough challenge next week. It is all mindset and confidence and I hope we can build on this and keep it going.”

For Holy Angels, the county tournament ends here, but the story of the run up to the Round of 16 is still worth telling. There are only 14 players in the entire softball program; no JV, no freshman team. The Angels won all of four games last season but now stand at 14-7 this year. They were the No. 4 seed in the county tournament, but that resume was built with a healthy Tori Robinson, the junior pitcher who suffered a hamstring injury against DePaul and is now out for an undetermined length of time. Isabelle Egan, a freshman, made the start for the Angels on Saturday and Kylee Amato threw three scoreless innings in relief.