UNION, NJ — With Alexa Liquori on the mound, the Union High School softball team likes its odds.
Proving to be one of the top hurlers in Union County last season, Liquori, also with her bat, helped lead the Farmers to a 14-10 finish that included them reaching the Union County Tournament semifinals and going 1-1 in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs.
Eventual repeat UCT champion Cranford High School did not score until the bottom of the seventh against Union for a 1-0 UCT semifinal round victory that kept the Farmers out of the championship game. Liquori put up nothing but zeros for the first six innings against one of the top teams in New Jersey.
Second-year head coach Shannon McMahon will rely heavily on Liquori, who also led Union with 28 hits last year and was second on the team in batting average at .341, once again this spring.
Union’s opening day game is on Monday, April 3, at 4 p.m., at Governor Livingston High School.
The Farmers have their first home game scheduled for Thursday, April 6, at 4 p.m., vs. Westfield High School.
Last year, Liquori fashioned an impressive 1.64 earned-run average that included 248 strikeouts in 149 innings. The strikeouts and innings totals were both good enough for top 10 in the state.
“She’s taken a role on the mound and has impressed with the confidence she shows,” McMahon said. “She has high expectations and the confidence to hit her spot or be around it and get the job done.”
Union’s other pitcher last year was Anabella Farinha, also a senior. Farinha was Union’s leading batter with a team-best .344 average that included 23 hits, 14 RBIs and 11 runs.
Three key seniors lost to graduation were Kaiya Simpkins, Arianna Alvarado and Kailey McDonough.
Simpkins batted .306 with a team-high four home runs. She also banged out 22 hits and paced the Farmers in RBIs with 19 and runs with 22.
Alvarado produced 21 hits and drove in 13 runs and McDonough had 20 hits and 11 RBIs.
In a four-game stretch against Westfield High School, Union Catholic High School, Arthur L. Johnson High School and eventual Union County Conference-Mountain Division champion David Brearley High School, last year, Liquori threw three shutouts and allowed only two unearned runs. In blanking David Brearley 3-0, she fanned 17.
“She trusts her pitches and gets ahead in the count and knows the situation she’s in,” McMahon said.
Other key players back for the Farmers this year include senior Bridie Orsini, junior Sofia Wadolowski and sophomores Laila Summey and Jenna Wakefield, who hit a home run last year.
Union Farmers 2023
• Monday, April 3, at Governor Livingston High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, April 6, Westfield High School, 4 p.m.
• Saturday, April 8, at Pingry School, TBD
• Tuesday, April 11, Jonathan Dayton High School, 4:30 p.m.
• Thursday, April 13, at Roselle Park High School, 4 p.m.
• Friday, April 14, at Arthur L. Johnson High School, 10 a.m.
• Tuesday, April 18, Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, 4 p.m.
• Wednesday, April 19, at Summit High School, 4 p.m.
• Friday, April 21, David Brearley High School, 4 p.m.
• Saturday, April 22, North Plainfield High School, 10:30 a.m.
• Tuesday, April 25, Livingston High School, 4 p.m.
• Wednesday, April 26, at Jonathan Dayton High School, 4 p.m.
• Friday, April 28, at Cranford High School, 4 p.m.
• Monday, May 1, at Watchung Hills Regional High School, 4 p.m.
• Tuesday, May 2, Roselle Park High School, 4 p.m.
• Thursday, May 4, at Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, 4 p.m.
• Friday, May 5, Summit High School, 4 p.m.
• Tuesday, May 9, Elizabeth High School, 4 p.m.
• Monday, May 15, Weehawken High School, 3:30 p.m.
• Saturday, May 20, at Ridge High School, 11 a.m.
Union County Conference-Mountain Division
Jonathan Dayton, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Summit, Union.