UNION, NJ — After Union High School’s softball team was humbled by Elizabeth High School 6-0 for its first loss, junior right-hander Alexa Liquori put together a four-game stretch that was off the charts.
From Monday, April 11, to Saturday, April 16, she performed as if she were one of the best softball pitchers in the state.
Liquori helped lead Union to victories at Westfield High School, 4-0; at home against Union Catholic High School, 3-2; at home against Arthur L. Johnson High School, 3-0; and at David Brearley High School, 3-0.
She yielded just two runs in those four games, both of them unearned vs. Union Catholic.
Liquori’s shutout against Westfield, which was 3-1 and ranked No. 14 in the state at the time, included 10 strikeouts and just one hit allowed.
In beating Union Catholic and David Brearley high schools, she fanned 17 batters in each game, both times coming just one strikeout away from matching her high of 18 achieved last season.
“Alexa has definitely been showing up for us,” Union first-year head softball coach Shannon McMahon said. “She trusts her pitches and gets ahead in the count and knows the situation she’s in.”
Union’s four-game winning streak was snapped Monday, April 18, when defending Union County Tournament champion Cranford High School pulled away, beginning in the fourth inning, for a 9-1 victory at home.
Union’s record stood at 5-2 going into its game at Jonathan Dayton High School on Wednesday, April 20, after press time.
The score was tied 1-1 against Cranford going into the bottom of the fourth, before the host Cougars scored three times in the inning to take the lead for good at its Adams Avenue Field in Cranford.
The Cougars added another insurance run in the fifth and three more in the sixth. Union committed four errors, so only five of the runs against Liquori were earned. She still managed to strike out 11 and walked four and hit one batter.
Through her first seven games, Liquori already has 89 strikeouts, has walked just 15 batters and has yielded only eight earned runs.
“She’s taken a role on the mound and has impressed with the confidence she shows,” McMahon said. “She has grown and is very humble.
“She has high expectations for herself just as we do. She has the confidence to hit her spot or be around it and get the job done. She definitely wants it.”
Offensively, so far, for the Farmers this year, Kaiya Simpkins has a home run, which came in the Cranford game, and Anabella Farinha has four RBIs. Liquori began the week with six hits total and Simpkins with six runs. Sophomore Sofia Wadolowski led the team in doubles with two.
“We’re finding a piece of the ball,” McMahon said. “We’re seeing the ball well. It’s the timely hits we’re looking more for.”
Union was scheduled to play at Jonathan Dayton High School on Wednesday, April 20, after press time, and, on Thursday, April 21, at 11 a.m., has a Watchung Division game at Elizabeth High School.
“Mistakes against a good team like Cranford, we can’t allow that to happen,” McMahon said. “It becomes a domino effect.”
The Farmers are then scheduled to play in what’s called the Old Watchung Tournament on Saturday, April 23, at Kearny High School. The four teams involved, which used to play in the Watchung Conference, include host Kearny, Union, Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School and Union Catholic.
At 9 a.m., it will be Union vs. Scotch Plains–Fanwood and Kearny against Union Catholic. Then, at noon, the consolation and championship games will be contested, with the non-winners from 9 a.m. playing in the consolation game and the winners in the championship game.
“These are crucial games for us,” McMahon said. “We’re ready to move past Cranford and focus on what’s ahead.”
Union is scheduled to host Watchung Division rival Governor Livingston High School on Monday, April 25, at 4 p.m. and then play at conference-crossover foe Summit High School on Wednesday, April 27, at 4 p.m.
Union is scheduled to host Watchung Division opponent Westfield High School on Thursday, April 28, at 4 p.m.