CRANFORD – To say that the Cranford Cougars were hungry and really determined to show what they could do at the plate would be an understatement.
Cranford was shut out its first two games of the season, so facing Union in its home-opener meant an opportunity to turn things around.
Union came to Cranford off a shutout victory itself and sought to keep the positive momentum going.
After Union was retired on just one hit in the top of the first, Cranford wasted no time realizing what it was like to finally cross home plate this season.
The Cougars scored their first run of the season in the bottom of the first after a sacrifice bunt and then added two more runs in the inning.
Cranford then scored three runs again in the second and third innings and one more in the fourth.
Scoring in every inning more than backed up the combined shutout pitching tossed by Cranford right handers Brenna Dolan and Samantha Wetherell.
Whereas Union could not get anything going offensively, this time Cranford finally broke through at the plate.
It all added up to a nice-and-neat 10-0, five-inning softball triumph for Cranford over Union in Friday afternoon’s one-hour cold and brisk Union County Conference-crossover clash at Adams Avenue Field.
Both teams are now 1-2.
Cranford smashed 11 hits, hitting safely and scoring in all four innings it came to the plate. Jillian Skalski, Julia Palozzola and Liz Casazza each banged out a single and a double.
Sophomore left fielder Taylor Reitzel slugged a solo home run over the left field fence and into the trees to make the score 10-0 in the bottom of the fourth.
Cranford opened its season with a 7-0 loss at Johnson April 1 and was then blanked 3-0 at Chatham on April 5.
“Our goal was to get at least one run and finally score, so to get 10 runs was great,” said Reitzel, a two-year varsity starter who was 1-for-3 with two RBI.
Reitzel grounded out her first two times up, driving in a run on a ground out to third in the bottom of the first.
When Reitzel came up in the fourth she was looking to do more than just hit the ball on the ground.
“I’ve been working with our hitting coach and trying to load more,” Reitzel said from an increased power perspective. “The pitch was right over the middle of the plate and had a weird spin on it.”
Reitzel’s home run was Cranford’s fifth and final extra-base hit.
Cranford’s first extra-base hit produced its first run of the season, With leadoff batter Morgan Ferretti on second base and one out in the bottom of the first – Ferretti reached on a bloop single to center – No. 3 batter Sarah Gluck laced a hard-hit shot to left field that went for an RBI-double, scoring Ferretti.
Cranford, in its 15th inning of the season, was finally on the scoreboard.
“We’re always working on our defense, but the goal this week was to really focus on our offense,” Cranford second-year head coach Heather Bormann said. “Our goal was to score early. All of our girls were really focused and made it happen.”
Reitzel drove in a run with a ground out and then Candice Durant followed with an RBI-single to give Cranford a 3-0 lead after the first inning.
In the second inning, Gluck drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to right and then Skalski produced a two-run double to left for a 6-0 advantage.
After two outs on two pitches in the third, Palozzola doubled and later scored on an errant throw. Casazza followed with a two-run double to left-center that made the score 9-0.
Reitzel’s home run in the bottom of the fourth and a scoreless Union top of the fifth saw the game conclude on the 10-run mercy rule at 10-0.
“We were all in a good mood today before the game and this time we had a lot of fun,” Reitzel said. “Once one person got a hit, everyone started to hit. It became contagious.”
“The kids turned it around today,” said Bormann, who last year guided Cranford to its first Union County Tournament championship game in five years. “When hitting (in practice), we have focus stations on outside, inside, up and low. We also focus in practice on speed. The Union pitcher moved the ball pretty well.”
Bormann was also pleased to report that it was the first home run of her young head coaching career. It was also the first round-tripper Reitzel blasted in her two varsity seasons so far.
On the mound, starter Brenna Dolan, a sophomore, limited Union to just two hits – singles by junior Sydney Santiago in the first and freshman Arielle Roman in the second. Relief pitcher Samantha Wetherell, a freshman, retired Union in order in the top of the fifth, fanning the first two batters she faced.
“Brenna was one of our closers last year,” said Bormann, a 2006 Brick Memorial graduate who played on the varsity there four years and then also played collegiately at York College in Spring Garden Township, Pa. “She’s worked extremely hard. We plan on her starting most of the time.”
Union pitcher Caryn Filippone, a senior righty, ran into some tough luck at times. One of Union’s captains along with senior center fielder Jessica McDonough – who will continue to play collegiately at Division 3 Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. – Filippone shut out Linden 5-0 in Union’s April 6 home-opener.
In that game Filippone tossed a three-hitter, striking out 13 and walking none.
“She was warmed up and ready to go,” Union head coach Kristin Nunes said. “She threw the ball well.”
McDonough, a four-year varsity starter, was 1-for-3, with two RBI in Union’s first victory.
“Jessica is an overall great kid and player,” Nunes said. “She’s also a great leader on and off the field.”
NOTES: The Union County Conference has its teams aligned in four divisions this season, including the Watchung, Mountain, Valley and Sky. Cranford, 10-8-1 overall last year, remains in the Watchung and Union remains in the Mountain.
Cranford’s next game is scheduled for Monday at home at 4 p.m. vs. Watchung Division rival Governor Livingston.
Union’s next game is another crossover, scheduled at Valley Division foe Rahway Monday at 4 p.m.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER GAME
Union (1-2) 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 2 1
Cranford (1-2) 3 3 3 1 x – 10 11 1
1-Caryn Filippone, senior, RH
4 innings: 10 runs (7 earned), 11 hits,
0 strikeouts, 1 walk
CRANFORD STARTING PITCHER:
13-Brenna Dolan, sophomore, RH
4 innings: 0 runs, 0 hits,
4 strikeouts (3 swinging, 1 looking), 1 walk
Struck out side in second inning.
Retired side in order in third inning.
CRANFORD RELIEF PITCHER:
4-Samantha Wetherell, freshman, RH
1 inning: 0 hits, 0 runs,
2 strikeouts (both swinging), 0 walks
Retired side in order in fifth inning.
SINGLES: Union – Sydney Santiago, Arielle Roman. Cranford – Morgan Ferretti, Jillian Skalski, Candice Durant, Julia Palozzola, Juliana Lefano, Liz Casazza.
DOUBLES: Union – None. Cranford – Sarah Gluck, Jillian Skalski, Julia Palozzola, Liz Casazza.
TRIPLES: Union – None. – Cranford – None.
HOME RUNS: Union – None. Cranford – Taylor Reitzel.
Lineup vs. Cranford:
5-Alicia Rodriguez, senior, 3B
8-Sydney Santiago, junior, SS
6-Jessica McDonough, senior, CF
14-Arielle Roman, freshman, 1B
15-Lauren Buchanan, junior, DP
7-Jennifer Maltese, senior, LF
4-Larissa Stone, junior, RF
9-Jamie Stulec, junior, 2B
10-Alyssa Steinmetz, senior, C
1-Caryn Filippone, senior, Flex
3-Brianna Cortez, senior
18-Meaghan Brandt, senior
2-Sienna Bucu, sophomore
Lineup vs. Union:
1-Morgan Ferretti, senior, C
9-Liz Casazza, junior, RF
2-Sarah Gluck, sophomore, CF
16-Jillian Skalski, junior, 2B
6-Taylor Reitzel, sophomore, LF
15-Candice Durant, senior, 3B
12-Jen Shore, senior, SS
14-Julia Palozzola, senior, 1B
7-Juliana Lefano, sophomore, DP
13-Brenna Dolan, sophomore, P/Flex
11-Erin Schwerdtfeger, freshman
3-Tessa Ferentinos, junior
8-Olivia Young, sophomore
5-Jayna Mallon, freshman