Edward Kensik, Correspondent – Record Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD — The Becton softball team had a seven-game winning streak at the end of last week and was hoping to keep the momentum going into next week when the state tournament starts.
The highlight of the streak came when the Wildcats defeated Saddle Brook, a rare feat in the 12 years that Dwight Hall has led the Becton softball program. The last seven have seasons have been in the NJIC, where they have faced Saddle Brook twice a year.
Becton took it to Saddle Brook in the first inning with five runs en route to an 11-8 win over the Lady Falcons, the perennial powerhouse. With the victory the Lady Wildcats raised their overall record to 12-6 and 10-5 in the Meadowlands Division, a game ahead of Saddle Brook.
For Becton it’s been a combination of hitting and the pitching of Kaitlyn O’Shea, who has a 2.00 ERA in the winning streak over 49 innings with 16 strikeouts and only six walks.
“Kaitlyn O’Shea has been a very important key to our success this season,” said Hall. “The key has been timely hitting and great pitching from senior Kaitlyn O’Shea.”
What is even more amazing is that O’Shea has been pitching with a sore shoulder. She said that a procedure on her shoulder was expected soon, but is hoping to push it off with the hope of a long state tournament run.
“I think that we have been putting it all together,” said O’Shea. “We’ve been working hard in practice. I just played as hard and my teammates have been doing their best behind me to make the plays. … I think if we can play like we have we can go far.”
O’Shea said that she has been playing with the sore shoulder for a couple of years and said that doctors have not definitively decided what the cause is.
O’Shea’s teammate, senior shortstop Zoe Rose, symbolizes the toughness of the Wildcats and is a big part of the reason why they have played well recently.
“She has really been pushing through,” Rose said of O’Shea.
The Becton senior shortstop added that the team’s energy has also been a big reason for the Lady Wildcats recent winning streak.
“I think the team’s energy has been big in these games,” said Rose. “In the early part of the season you can see that we were struggling.”
Rose has been a part of the offensive surge recently by going 11-for-21 (.524 batting average) in the seven games. Two other seniors have also been hot with the bat, Crystal Arendas, 10-for-24 (.417), and Madison Jennerich, 13-for-25 (.520).
But Rose said there have been contributions from the top spot in the lineup through the ninth in the winning streak.
“It’s not only been one or two hitters, but everybody is getting solid hits,” said Rose.
And it was a big bat that shocked Saddle Brook in the top of the first inning, when Becton connected for three home runs. Arendas and Jennerich both hit solo home runs over the fence, and then O’Shea helped her own cause with a three-run bomb over the fence at Saddle Brook for a 5-0 lead.
While Saddle Brook came back for four runs in the bottom of the first inning, the five runs that Becton scored was a big boost to its confidence.
“We got a lot of momentum going when we scored five runs in the first inning,” said Rose.
And Becton showed that it can come back after Saddle Brook took an 8-6 lead after three innings. The Wildcats showed their resiliency with two runs in the top of the fifth inning and three more in the top of the sixth to put away Saddle Brook.
Going into the state tournament, Rose and the rest of the Becton team think they can sneak up on the other bigger schools in the North 1, Group 1 section.
“We’re the underdog and everybody thinks we’re little Becton, but they don’t realize the talent we have,” said Rose.