Johnson softball captures UCC’s Watchung Division title outright 2 days after winning UCT for first time since 1981; Finishes 3-0 vs. GL this season

Crusaders on verge of 3rd consecutive 20-win campaign

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHNSON HIGH SCHOOL - Johnson standout junior right hander Gianna Randazza is pictured here with head coach Mike Mancino at her right and athletic director Gus Kalikas at her left.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHNSON HIGH SCHOOL – Johnson standout junior right hander Gianna Randazza is pictured here with head coach Mike Mancino at her right and athletic director Gus Kalikas at her left.

The agony of semifinal defeats the past three seasons was motivation enough for a very talented Johnson softball team to proclaim: “enough is enough, let’s go out and do this!”

That’s exactly what the Crusaders did.

After getting over the semifinal hump back on April 30 at Linden with a 12-1 win over fifth-seeded Westfield – and before that a hard-fought 6-4 win over eighth-seeded Brearley (it was the second consecutive season Johnson ousted Brearley in the 8-1 quarterfinal at Linden, although this year’s game was much closer) Johnson sought to make the very most of its first appearance in the final in exactly 20 years.

In the 1996 title game at Linden, Johnson was one out away (also two strikes away) from beating five-time defending champion Union.

It didn’t happen.

Union came back in the top of the seventh with three runs after two outs to erase a 3-1 deficit and then held Johnson scoreless in the bottom of the seventh to post a 4-3 victory en route to its record sixth straight crown.

This time Johnson was determined to get all the outs necessary to bring home the program’s third title.

Behind a four-hitter tossed by junior standout Gianna Randazza the top-seeded Crusaders were more than convincing in downing second-seeded and defending champion Governor Livingston 7-0 in Saturday’s 41st annual softball Union County Tournament championship game played at Kean University’s Cougar Field in Union.

Johnson, which lost in the semifinals as the top seed a year ago and also lost in the semifinals in 2013 and 2014, captured its first UCT title since 1981 and third overall. The first one was attained in 1979, which was the fourth year of the tournament.

Johnson, which improved to 18-7 with the victory, scored once in the top of the second, twice in the third and four more times in the seventh.

GL was playing in the championship game for the seventh straight season, with a record in the final over that span of 3-4. The Highlanders were attempting to win their sixth title.

Randazza, who struck out six, walked two and hit a batter, also excelled at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double, a single, two runs and two RBI.

Stephanie Visconti also had two hits for the Crusaders and teammate Victoria Zatko also had two RBI.

Alanna Namit, last year’s championship game winning pitcher, tossed an eight-hitter.

“Gianna pitched well, we played pretty good defense and got timely hitting,” said Johnson head coach Mike Mancino, at the helm of the Crusaders since 2011. “I thought we played well in all three facets.”

The sting of last year’s 6-1 semifinal loss to Cranford was a reminder that Johnson still had some business to take care of.

“We had beaten Cranford twice last year and also that week,” Mancino said. “It’s tough to beat a team three times as we found out today against GL. Cranford played real well, an A game and they deserved to beat us.

“That definitely motivated us.”

Johnson managed to defeat GL three times in three tries this season after beating the Highlanders 7-4 at GL Monday to capture the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division championship outright with a final league record of 7-1.

Johnson first beat GL at home by the score of 6-3 back on April 14.

“We were able to put together three pretty good games against GL,” Mancino said. “We have so much respect for coach (Mike) Roof and coach (Steve) Petruzzelli. That’s the kind of program we aspire to be.”

Randazza, still with her off-the-field thumb injury, did not pitch against GL Monday. Mancino went with Stephanie Visconti instead, who tossed a five-hitter.

“Stephanie pitched well,” Mancino said. “We were being no-hit by Alanna Namit, who I have a lot of respect for, through four innings.”

Johnson overcame a 3-1 deficit by scoring four runs in the top of the sixth and two more in the seventh. The big hit was delivered by Nicole Cassano, who blasted a three-run homer in the sixth.

“We were down two runs right away in the first and didn’t scratch out our first run until the fifth,” Mancino said.

Johnson and GL shared the Watchung Division crown last season, each with 11-1 records and with the only losses coming to each other. The Watchung Division consisted of seven teams last year when the UCC had just three divisions. It consists of five teams this year with the UCC having four divisions.

Johnson and Westfield shared the Watchung Division championship in 2014.

Johnson, with an overall record of 19-7 after Monday’s win, will wrap its regular season schedule Tuesday at St. John Vianney. The Crusaders hosted the Holmdel school at this same time last year, falling 6-0.

It will be Johnson’s last regular season game. The Crusaders, who finished 22-6 last year and 22-3 in 2014, are one victory away from a third straight 20-win season.

“It’s a good tuneup, really a no-lose situation for us,” Mancino said.

Johnson will be the third seed for the Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs. Mancino projects Robbinsville as the top seed, Bordentown as the second and Spotswood and GL as the next two seeds after Johnson.

 

 

JOHNSON IN UCT SEMIFINALS PAST 3 YEARS:

 

2015:

As the top seed the Crusaders lost to fifth-seeded Cranford 6-1 at Linden.

Johnson finished 22-6.

 

2014:

As the second seed the Crusaders lost to third-seeded GL 13-0 at Linden.

Johnson, ironically, swept GL in regular season play, winning 6-3 at GL before the UCT semifinal and then 7-2 at home after the UCT semifinal.

Johnson finished 22-3.

 

2013:

As the fourth seed the Crusaders lost to top-seeded and eventual champion Westfield 5-4 at Kean.

Johnson finished 13-11.

 

 

41ST ANNUAL SOFTBALL

UNION COUNTY

TOURNAMENT

 

SEEDS:

1-Johnson

2-Gov. Livingston

3-Elizabeth

4-Benedictine

5-Westfield

6-Cranford

7-Dayton

8-Brearley

9-Summit

10-Roselle Park

11-Scotch Plains

12-Union Catholic

13-Union

14-Kent Place

15-Oak Knoll

16-Roselle

17-Rahway

18-Linden

19-Plainfield

20-New Providence

21-Roselle Catholic

 

PRELIMINARY ROUND:

Thursday, April 21

Union Catholic 15, Roselle Catholic 1

Union 15, New Providence 2

Kent Place 15, Plainfield 5

Linden 16, Oak Knoll 5

Rahway 12, Roselle 1

 

FIRST ROUND:

Friday, April 22

Cranford 8, Scotch Plains 0

Gov. Livingston 12, Linden 2

Saturday, April 23

Johnson 15, Rahway 3

Elizabeth 10, Kent Place 0

Union 8, Benedictine 7

Roselle Park 4, Dayton 1

Monday, April 25

Brearley 6, Summit 0

Westfield 4, Union Catholic 0

 

QUARTERFINALS:

Friday, April 29

At Linden

Westfield 7, Union 1

Johnson 6, Brearley 4

Cranford 19, Elizabeth 14

Gov. Livingston 5, Roselle Park 2

 

SEMIFINALS:

Saturday, April 30

At Linden

Johnson 12, Westfield 1

Gov. Livingston 10, Cranford 2

 

FINAL:

Saturday, May 14

At Kean University

Johnson 7, Gov. Livingston 0

 

 

UCT SOFTBALL CHAMPIONS:

 

2016: Johnson – WP: Gianna Randazza

2015: Governor Livingston – WP: Alanna Namit

2014: Westfield – WP: Elena Scarano

2013: Westfield – WP: Elena Scarano

2012: Governor Livingston – WP: Jordan Robbins

2011: Governor Livingston – WP: Jordan Robbins

2010: Cranford – WP: Kelly Hardman

 

2009: Union – WP: Amanda Kardys

2008: Cranford – WP: Kelly Hardman

2007: Cranford – WP: Kelly Hardman

2006: Cranford – WP: Elena Morge

2005: Brearley – WP: Jenna Vitale

2004: Roselle Park – WP: Becky Riccitelli

2003: Roselle Park – WP: Becky Riccitelli

2002: Cranford – WP: Christine Pemoulie

2001: Governor Livingston – WP: Lyndsey Sheppard

2000: Union – WP: Rayneesha Adams

 

1999: Governor Livingston – WP: Gina Turturiello

1998: Westfield – won as 6th seed; WP: Shannon Wagner

1997: Governor Livingston

1996: Union – WP: Laura Labonia

1995: Union – WP: Laura Labonia

1994: Union – WP: Laura Labonia

1993: Union – WP: Alison Brehm

1992: Union

1991: Union

1990: Westfield

 

1989: Union Catholic

1988: Union

1987: Union

1986: Westfield

1985: Westfield

1984: Westfield

1983: Union

1982: Roselle Park

1981: Johnson Regional

1980: Linden

 

1979: Johnson Regional

1978: Westfield

1977: Scotch Plains

1976: Westfield

 

Championships:

 

Union (11)

 

Westfield (9)

 

Gov. Livingston (6)

 

Cranford (5)

 

Johnson Regional-Johnson (3)

 

Roselle Park (3)

 

Scotch Plains (1)

 

Linden (1)

 

Union Catholic (1)

 

Brearley (1)

 

 

UCT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SCORES

From 2016-1987:

 

2016: Johnson 7, Governor Livingston 0 – at Kean

 

2015: GL 4, Cranford 3 – at Kean

 

2014: Westfield 5, GL 2 – at Kean

 

2013: Westfield 15, GL 1 – at Kean

 

2012: GL 9, New Providence 2 – at Kean

 

2011: GL 8, Westfield 1 – at Kean

 

2010: Cranford 4, GL 3 – at Kean

 

2009: Union 3, Linden 1 – at Linden

 

2008: Cranford 2, Union 0 – at Linden

 

2007: Cranford 13, Linden 0 – at Linden

 

2006: Cranford 1, GL 0 – at Linden

 

2005: Brearley 2, GL 1 (10 inn.) – at Linden

 

2004: Roselle Park 2, Cranford 1 (13 inn.) – at Linden

 

2003: Roselle Park 1, Cranford 0 (11 inn.) – at Linden

 

2002: Cranford 3, Union 0 – at Linden

 

2001: GL 3, Scotch Plains 0 – at Linden

 

2000: Union 2, GL 1 – at Linden

 

1999: GL 8, Johnson 3 – at Linden

 

1998: Westfield 9, Roselle Park 0 – at Linden

 

1997: GL 5, Cranford 0 – at Linden

 

1996: Union 4, Johnson 3 – at Linden

 

1995: Union 11, Westfield 0 – at Linden

 

1994: Union 8, Cranford 7 – at Linden

 

1993: Union 16, Cranford 14 – at Linden

 

1992: Union 13, Westfield 0 – at Linden

 

1991: Union 1, Roselle Park 0 – at Linden

 

1990: Westfield 3, Union 0 – at Linden

 

1989: Union Catholic 4, Union 2 – at Linden

 

1988: Union 1, Roselle Park 0 – at Linden

 

1987: Union 3, Roselle Park 0 – at Linden

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