ROSELLE PARK – Showing much more promise this season, visiting Union scored in the first two innings, both times after the first two batters were retired, and led Roselle Park as late as the bottom of the fifth.
It took the host Panthers some time before they were successful with the bats against Union pitcher Alyssa Thomas. Roselle Park managed only two hits through the first four innings.
A single by leadoff batter Sarah Lippin got things started for the Panthers in the fifth. Then Emma Cieslinski came up and, after taking a pitch that was called a strike and not to the liking of Roselle Park head coach Fran Maggio, she followed Lippin with another hit.
Cieslinski hit a ball to center for a single and then it kept going, which allowed Cieslinski to come all the way around and score. Roselle Park erased a one-run deficit and took the lead for good.
The Panthers scored four runs on five hits in the fifth and added two more insurance runs in the sixth to produce a 7-2 Union County Conference-crossover softball triumph in Thursday’s home game against Union.
Roselle Park improved to 6-4 and Union is now 4-3.
Roselle Park senior right hander Maddie Hummel did not allow a hit after the second inning, tossing a six-hitter that included 14 strikeouts and no walks. She also slugged a two-run double in the sixth.
“Our attitude has been better the last few games,” Hummel said.
That includes Roselle Park’s 3-2 home loss to undefeated Watchung Division rival Westfield Wednesday. Roselle Park led 2-0 before Westfield came back to improve to 7-0 and sweep the season series against the Panthers.
“We’ve been picking each other up, like we did today against Union,” Hummel said.
Cieslinski reached base all three times up and had two of Roselle Park’s eight hits. Sisters Madison and Lexie also hit safely twice.
“I’m happy we were able to bring ourselves back in this one,” Emma Cieslinski said. “Union and Westfield are both good teams.”
Of her hit that ultimately provided the Panthers with the lead for the first time, Cieslinski said, “I put myself in a good situation, I was ahead in the count. I just tried to stay within myself.”
Thomas also pitched well for Union, allowing only three earned runs, while striking out five and walking two.
Union senior catcher Arielle Roman, who last week reached 100 career hits, slugged a standup solo home run in the first. In the bottom of the frame she threw out a Roselle Park baserunner attempting to steal second for the inning’s final out.
Union left fielder Tamia Howell threw out a Roselle Park baserunner at that plate in the third, with Roman making a fine tag, to keep Union in front 2-1.
Union center fielder Kaiya Simpkins was solid catching the ball as she recorded five putouts.
Roselle Park has just one more game before Monday night’s Union County Tournament seeding meeting in Scotch Plains. The Panthers will now host Brearley Monday at 4 p.m., moving the game from Saturday.
Union is not scheduled to play again until Tuesday at Gov. Livingston.
“I would say right now that we have a case for the second or third seed,” Maggio said.
Roselle Park is the defending UCT champion for the first time since 2005 after the Panthers won the crown in 2003 and 2004.
Roselle Park lost to Johnson 3-0 at home, but beat Cranford 3-0 at Cranford.
“Beating Union today was big and I think Elizabeth beating Cranford and GL beating Johnson Wednesday helped us,” Maggio said.
Roselle Park has now won five of its last six following a 1-3 start that included three straight defeats.
“We had a rough start, but we have stayed together as a team,” Hummel said.
HAILEY ORTEGA, CO-CAPTAIN, STILL PROVDING SPARK
The news came down Wednesday that Roselle Park senior catcher Hailey Ortega will not be able to play at all this year because of the injury she suffered in the fall playing volleyball.
Ortega suffered a torn ACL – her left knee – in mid-September and had surgery Nov. 1.
“Yesterday, April 17, was when Hailey went back to the doctor who did the surgery for analysis,” Maggio said. “After she was evaluated the doctor said she would not be ready to play. There would be too much risk. The knee is not strong enough.”
A three-year starter at catcher and four-year varsity player with the program, Ortega was one of the top catchers in Union County. She batted .367 for the 27-3 Group 1 state champion Panthers last year, with 36 hits in 98 official at-bats.
Roselle Park’s leadoff batter, Ortega produced 15 RBI, belted three doubles, three triples, walked 14 times and stole 20 bases a year ago.
“Hailey is still really important to the team and a key part of our success,” Emma Cieslinski said.
“Hailey is an amazing player,” Hummel said. “We’ve been playing together since we were little. She’s still a big part of the team no matter what.”
Ortega has been with the team this year since day one. One of her team functions is helping guide freshman catcher Reina Jeronimo.
She does so with a smile on her face.
“It’s extremely difficult to not be on the field, that’s where I played the last three years,” Ortega said. “Still, I do my part.
“I try to keep everyone positive and help any way I can, even if it’s to say something like, ‘hey, pick it up.’”
Ortega will attend the University of Oregon where she plans to begin her studies toward becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
She is Roselle Park’s female Scholar-Athlete for the 2018-2019 school year.
“It’s just a devastating loss, more so on a personal level,” Maggio said. “Hailey totally dedicated herself to this program the past four years and was a big part of everything we accomplished.
“She was the catalyst, our leadoff hitter, with 20 stolen bases. She worked with Maddie since recreation league. She was always a calming presence. Kids like that don’t come along often.”
Ortega and Hummel are this year’s captains.
“Hailey has been working with Reina and Reina has been very receptive to it,” Maggio said. “Unfortunately the calendar didn’t cooperate.
“There’s just not enough time. If we had a couple of more months there might have been.
“Hailey going to the University of Oregon, she has a great future ahead, which is the most important thing.”
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER
Union (4-3) 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 – 2 6
Roselle Park (6-4) 0 0 1 0 2 4 x – 7 8
13-Alyssa Thomas, junior RH
7 runs (3 earned), 8 hits
5 strikeouts (2 swinging, 3 looking), 2 walks
Pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the second.
ROSELLE PARK PITCHER:
5-Maddie Hummel, senior RH
2 runs, 6 hits
14 strikeouts (11 swinging, 3 looking), 0 walks, 1 hit batter
Pitched 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth and seventh.
Retired 8 batters in a row from the second to the fifth.
UNION HITS (6):
14-Arielle Roman – standup solo home run in first.
2-Elizabeth Arias – opposite field single to right in first.
13-Alyssa Thomas – infield single to shortstop in first.
3-Kaitlyn Marques – but single in second.
4-Tamia Howell – bunt single in second.
11-Kaiya Simpkins – opposite field RBI-double to left-center in second.
ROSELLE PARK HITS (8):
6-Lexie Cieslinski – single to left in first.
17-Madison Cieslinski – RBI-triple over left fielder’s head in third.
2-Sarah Lippin – single to center in fifth.
29-Emma Cieslinski – RBI-single to center and scores in fifth.
17-Madison Cieslinski – bloop single to short center in fifth.
6-Lexie Cieslinski – opposite field bloop single to short right in fifth.
5-Madison Hummel – 2-run double to center in fifth.
29-Emma Cieslinski – opposite field, hard hit, single to right in sixth.
4-Tamia Howell, senior, left field
11-Kaiya Simpkins, freshman, center field
14-Arielle Roman, senior, catcher
2-Elizabeth Arias, junior, shortstop
13-Alyssa Thomas, junior, pitcher
10-Simone Casella, sophomore, designated player
7-Kailey McDonough, freshman, second base
1-Lauren Baran, senior, right field
3-Kaitlyn Marques, sophomore, third base
15-Emily Schroeder, sophomore, flex (first base)
8-Ciara Johnson, senior
5-Emily Arias, junior
12-Ariana Alvarado, junior
ROSELLE PARK PANTHERS:
17-Madison Cieslinski, junior, second base
6-Lexie Cieslinski, junior, right field
5-Madison Hummel, senior, pitcher
9-Gabby Scott, junior, first base
20-Luana Daluz, junior, third base
2-Sarah Lippin, junior, center field
29-Emma Cieslinski, junior, designated player
24-Miranda Taveras, freshman, left field
13-Meaghan Mooney, senior, shortstop
26-Reina Jeronimo, freshman, flex (catcher)
23-Danielle Crown, sophomore
11-Alex Harms, sophomore
25-Olivia Amata, junior