Second-seeded Jonathan Dayton wins first-ever UCT softball championship

SPRINGFIELD, NJ — Perhaps the only improbable conclusion to an unprecedented championship-game matchup would be that both teams would produce home runs in their final at-bats.

Second-seeded Jonathan Dayton High School, which had never won the championship, was in control and in the lead the entire game. Going into the top of the seventh, the home team Bulldogs were leading by four runs.

Eighth-seeded Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, with just one crown to its credit and that way back in 1977, found a way to dramatically tie the game in the top of the seventh.

After cutting the deficit to two and now down to their final out, Scotch Plains–Fanwood standout returning varsity sophomore Emily Roof stepped up to the plate and blasted a two-run homer to dramatically tie the game.

Behind the entire contest, from the bottom of the first on when Jonathan Dayton scored its first run, Scotch Plains–Fanwood now found itself in a tie game and forced Jonathan Dayton to have to bat in the bottom of the seventh.

Jonathan Dayton scored one run in the first and then two more in the second to take a three-run advantage. Scotch Plains–Fanwood got on the scoreboard with a run in the top of the third to cut Jonathan Dayton’s lead to two.

Jonathan Dayton answered with two more insurance runs in the fourth to take a four-run lead.

With the score still even now in the bottom of the seventh, Jonathan Dayton sought to erase the bad memory of giving up that game-tying, two-run home run to Roof and find a way to end this thing before extra innings.

Enter Jonathan Dayton junior Angela Gatto. The star shortstop entered the championship game with 12 career home runs, including four as a freshman in 2022, four as a sophomore in 2023 and four as a junior in 2024.

Gatto had already connected for one solo home run earlier in the game to give her a career single-season high of five entering the bottom of the seventh.

Again Gatto stepped up to the plate, the bases empty.
There were two outs and the game was one strike away from extra innings as the count was 0-2.

Again Gatto came through, bigger than ever.

Gatto produced a second solo home run, this one the game-winning hit, to help lead Jonathan Dayton to an unbelievably thrilling 6-5 triumph against Scotch Plains–Fanwood in the 48th annual softball Union County Tournament championship game on Monday night, May 20, which was contested at Kean University’s Cougar Field in Union.

Gatto delivered Jonathan Dayton its first UCT title and prevented Scotch Plains–Fanwood from capturing its second and first in 47 years.

Winning pitcher Lila Carroll tossed an eight-hitter, striking out nine and walking four.

Gatto was 3-for-4, with three runs, three RBI, a single and two home runs. Kate Buckley, a senior, was also 3-for-4, with one run, two singles and a double.

Also hitting safely for Jonathan Dayton were Natalie Mignone with two hits and Alyssa Santangelo, Carroll, Olivia Douglas and Jenna Campos with one each.

Guided by head coach Dave Rennie since 2021 – Rennie was previously the assistant coach to Pamela de la Llave – the Bulldogs have improved record-wise every year.

Jonathan Dayton went 6-12 in Rennie’s first year in 2021, then improved to 10-11 in 2022 and improved even more in 2023, finishing 18-10 overall and winning the Union County Conference’s middle of the pack Mountain Division title, perfect at 8-0.

Jonathan Dayton moved up to the UCC’s upper Watchung Division this season and finished second at 7-3, one game behind champion Governor Livingston High School, which was also the UCT’s top seed.
Jonathan Dayton won its seventh straight game for the second time this year and improved to 20-6, after beating Scotch Plains–Fanwood.

Scotch Plains–Fanwood, which also won seven in a row before falling at Ridge High School, 6-0, on Saturday, May 18, slipped to 16-8 with its second straight defeat.

Jonathan Dayton Bulldogs under fourth-year head coach Dave Rennie:

2021: (6-12) – 4-5 in UCC-Mountain Division
2022: (10-11) – 6-3 in UCC-Mountain Division
2023: (18-10) – won UCC-Mountain Division at 8-0
2024: (20-6 so far) – finished second in UCC-Watching Division at 7-3
First-time Union County Tournament champions

2024 Softball
Union County Tournament

Seeds: 1-Governor Livingston. 2-Jonathan Dayton. 3-Cranford. 4-Arthur L. Johnson. 5-Westfield. 6-Elizabeth. 7-David Brearley. 8-Scotch Plains–Fanwood. 9-Summit. 10-Union Catholic. 11-New Providence. 12-Oak Knoll. 13-Roselle Park. 14-Union. 15-Rahway. 16-Kent Place. 17-Abraham Clark. 18-Linden. 19-Roselle Catholic. 20-Plainfield.

First Round
Thursday, May 9
At higher seeds

Roselle Park 15, Plainfield 0
Union 12, Roselle Catholic 1
Rahway 11, Linden 1
Kent Place 17, Abraham Clark 0

Second Round
Saturday, May 11
At higher seeds

Governor Livingston 10, Kent Place 0
Scotch Plains–Fanwood 3, Summit 2
Arthur L. Johnson 5, Roselle Park 2
Westfield 6, Oak Knoll 1
Jonathan Dayton 12, Rahway 0
David Brearley 10, Union Catholic 0
Cranford 7, Union 3
Elizabeth 3, New Providence 1

Monday, May 13
At higher seeds

Scotch Plains–Fanwood 5, Governor Livingston 0
Arthur L. Johnson 1, Westfield 0 (9 inn.)
Jonathan Dayton 10, David Brearley 7
Cranford 5, Elizabeth 0

Thursday, May 16
At Kean University

Jonathan Dayton 4, Cranford 1
Scotch Plains–Fanwood 3, Arthur L. Johnson 0

Monday, May 20
At Kean University

Jonathan Dayton 6, Scotch Plains–Fanwood 5