Westfield turns back two-time defending champion GL for first UCT softball crown since 1998

Highlanders, down to their last strike, manage to avoid getting shut out

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - GL senior Jordan Robbins was the winning pitcher in the 2011 and 2012 championship games.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – GL senior Jordan Robbins was the winning pitcher in the 2011 and 2012 championship games.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - Rick Iacono will be back for one more season as GL's head coach.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Rick Iacono will be back for one more season as GL’s head coach.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI - Westfield captured its first county championship since 1998.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Westfield captured its first county championship since 1998.

UNIONSometimes there’s just no denying a certain team.

Sometimes the better team comes out on top.

Sometimes a team just matches up better against a certain opponent.

All of those things and more applied on a hot and humid Thursday afternoon at KeanUniversity’s Cougar Field.

It might have been appropriate that the temperature reached 98 degrees because Westfield accomplished something it has not done since 1998.

The Blue Devils captured their first county championship in 15 years, appropriately by the score of 15-1 in five innings over two-time defending champion Governor Livingston.

Westfield has won the second-most county crowns with eight. Union, which last won in 2009, has captured the most, 11.

After reaching the final for the first time since last winning it two years ago, Westfieldwas denied by GL 8-1 in the championship game at Kean.

This time the roles were reversed in the 38thannual softball Union County Tournament championship game as the top-seeded Blue Devils snapped a scoreless tie with five runs in the top of the second and never looked back.

Westfield was led on the mound by junior right hander Elena Scarano, who was one strike away from throwing the first complete-game shutout in a championship contest since Cranford freshman Kelly Hardman blanked Linden 13-0 in five innings in the 2007 final.

“After losing to them (GL) two years ago we wanted revenge and we gave it right back to them,” said Scarano, who scattered six hits and was the recipient of 13 Westfield hits.

Scarano, who was the losing pitcher in the final two years ago, concluded a fine junior campaign with a 14-3 mound mark.

“Elena’s the best pitcher in the county,” fifth-year Westfield head coach Caitlin MacDonald, a 2002 Westfield grad and former Blue Devils softball standout, said.“She beat everyone.

“She executes, gets ahead, gets spins and – more importantly – is so mentally tough out there.”

Westfield finished 20-6 and also captured the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division championship, sweeping GL along the way, including a 7-2 win in BerkeleyHeights on April 9 and a 3-2 win at home on May 7.

Second-seeded GL, which finished 15-10, reached the championship game for the fourth straight season and is tied with Cranford for the third most county titles with five.

Although GL senior righty Jordan Robbins was knocked out of the game in the third inning, she has plenty to be proud of, including finishing this year at 14-8. Robbins is one of only a few pitchers to have won consecutive UCT championship games, doing so the past two seasons.

“Jordan had a very good career,” said 12th-year GL head coach Rick Iacono, who plans on coaching the Highlanders one more season.“She was always highly-competitive and a very hard-worker.”

AlthoughWestfield was the higher seed, the Blue Devils were the visiting team because that was determined by the flip of a coin, that GL won, with the Highlanders selecting to be the home team.

Robbins retired Westfield on no runs and one hit in the top of the first and then Scarano threw a perfect bottom of the first.

ThenWestfield made its move.

Scarano led off with a walk, with Becca Kaufman running for her. Then Bobbi Snyder singled to center after being down 0-2 in the count.

After a fly out to right and another walk, No. 9 batter – senior Sarah Seitz –produced an infield single off the third baseman’s glove to drive in Kaufman and put Westfield ahead for good at 1-0.

Seitz was 3-for-4, including two singles in the fifth.

Later in the inning, a second run scored as the result of a fielder’s choice and then Cali Chambliss drove in the third run with a sacrifice fly to left. Julia Criscuolo drilled a shot to the right-center gap for a two-run double that made it 5-0.

After scoring single runs in the third and fourth innings, Westfield completely put the game away by scoring eight runs on seven hits and taking advantage of three GL errors in the fifth. Chambliss produced a two-run double to make it 9-0.

Following with RBI-singles were Criscuolo, Snyder and Natalie Tupper. Tiffany Gregory added a sacrifice fly to right, with the final run scoring as the result of an error.

In her only at-bat, GL junior Lauryn DiStaso connected on an opposite field single to right and then two batters later scored her team’s only run after leadoff batter Taylor Hendrzak managed to drive her in with a bloop single to center.

“We improved all season long and that’s all you can ask of your kids,” Iacono said.“We struggled at times without a few players. We were inexperienced and, at times, we were hurt by our running on the basepaths and our defense.”

For Westfield, its first county title in a decade in a half was a long time in the making, starting three years ago with the seniors on this team and two years ago with the juniors.

For a long time it was teams like Union and Cranford that were winning 20 games, division titles and conference championships.

“Two years ago our freshmen caught people by surprise and last year we were a little underwhelmed,” MacDonald said. “This year we had a great beginning, middle and end to our season.”

NOTES: Robbins attempted to become the first pitcher to win three UCT championship games since Hardman did so in 2007, 2008 and 2010. The last pitcher to win three straight UCT title contests was Union’s Laura Labonia her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons of 1994, 1995 and 1996.

Pitchers that have won two or more UCT championship games since 2000 include Roselle Park’s Becky Riccitelli – twice – as a junior in 2003 and as a senior in 2004, Hardman three times and Robbins twice, first as a sophomore in 2011 and second as a junior year in 2012.

 

 

38TH ANNUAL SOFTBALL UCT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

1-WESTFIELD (20-6)                            0     5     1       1     8 – 15  13  0

2-GOV. LIVINGSTON(15-10)             0     0     0       0     1 –   1    6  5

 

 

WINNING PITCHER: Westfield junior RH Elena Scarano (14-3)

LOSING PITCHER: GL senior RH Jordan Robbins (14-8)

 

DOUBLES: Westfield – Julia Criscuolo, Cali Chambliss. GL– None.

TRIPLES: Westfield – None. GL –None.

HOME RUNS: Westfield – None. GL– None.

 

UCT SOFTBALL CHAMPIONS

 

2013: Westfield

2012: Governor Livingston

2011: Governor Livingston

2010: Cranford

 

2009: Union

2008: Cranford

2007: Cranford

2006: Cranford

2005: Brearley

2004: RosellePark

2003: RosellePark

2002: Cranford

2001: Governor Livingston

2000: Union

 

1999: Governor Livingston

1998: Westfield

1997: Governor Livingston

1996: Union

1995: Union

1994: Union

1993: Union

1992: Union

1991: Union

1990: Westfield

 

1989: Union Catholic

1988: Union

1987: Union

1986: Westfield

1985: Westfield

1984: Westfield

1983: Union

1982: RosellePark

1981: Johnson Regional

1980: Linden

 

1979: Johnson Regional

1978: Westfield

1977: Scotch Plains

1976: Westfield

 

Championships: Union (11), Westfield (8),

Cranford (5), Gov. Livingston (5),

RosellePark (3), Johnson Regional (2),

Scotch Plains (1), Linden (1), Union Catholic (1), Brearley (1).

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