CHAMPIONS: Secaucus captured its first-ever North 2, Group 1 sectional title last Friday, 1-0, against three-time defending sectional champion and reigning Group 1 state champion Whippany Park. Senior pitcher Danielle Roesing fired a four-hit shutout in the Patriots’ 14th win in a row.
So, things have been a little hectic around here, but I’ve been meaning to get something up on Aces about Secaucus’ incredible postseason run. The Patriots might not have won their league (Lyndhurst won it; New Milford finished second), but they remain the last team standing in the competitive NJIC Liberty Division after shocking three-time defending North 2, Group 1 sectional champion Whippany Park last Friday, 1-0, in the championship game. Whippany Park was also the reigning Group 1 state champion, and just recently captured this year’s Morris County Tournament title — one of the best, and most competitive, county tournaments in the state. WP beat Montville (a team that took Indian Hills to 10 innings in the state tourney) in that final, 12-2.
The self-proclaimed Party Crashers continued to thrive in their preferred spoiler role, crashing the biggest party yet last Friday in the program’s historic upset win. The Patriots have rallied around the pursuit of knocking off higher-ranked teams throughout the postseason, which has led to the program’s first Hudson County tournament (as a 3-seed) and state sectional championship (as a 5-seed) in school history. It’s already been a banner year in Secaucus this spring, but the Patriots don’t have any intentions of slowing down just yet — now two wins shy of a Group 1 state championship.
In Friday’s stunner, senior ace Danielle Roesing was outstanding once again. She allowed just four hits in the complete game shutout to set up a Group 1 semifinal showdown with North 1, Group 1 champion Saddle Brook Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Tisdale Elementary School in Ramsey. Secaucus pushed across the lone run of the game in the top of the fifth after loading the bases with no outs and eventually scoring on a clutch two-out bases loaded walk from leadoff hitter Lauren Guillen. Senior Jessie Koerner (who made an unbelievable bare-handed catch on a foul ball on a sac bunt attempt in the fourth. I saw a video. It was sick.) and Ariana Simon led off the inning with back-to-back walks and Kim Alfonso followed with an infield bunt single to load the bases. Whippany Park was one out away from wiggling out of the jam after a failed one-out squeeze attempt from Secaucus, but Guillen worked a full count and eventually drew the go-ahead RBI walk to score Simon.
“It was unreal,” Secaucus coach Cherryl Bott said in a phone interview last Friday night. “We made the plays, and Dani was her amazing self as usual. I’m just speechless. It’s all just mental right now, and they all believe now. At this point, I think that’s all it is. … They were going nuts. We talked [Thursday] about how Whippany Park was going to put the ball in play, which they did [Roesing had 5 Ks], so we had to be solid defensively. And we were. They never panicked with runners on, and that’s what it really came down to. And we managed to generate that one run. Any way you can get it, we’ll take it. Then Danielle did the rest. I can’t say enough about her.”
“No one really thought a month and a half ago that a run like this would be possible,” Bott continued. “If you told me this was going to happen, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. After going down in the league, some things had to change, and they made the commitment. And now we’re here, as county and sectional champions. It’s unbelievable, and it still hasn’t all sunk in just yet.”
SS Julia McClure (left), C Jessie Koerner (center) and P Danielle Roesing (right) have been three big reasons behind Secaucus’ 14-game winning streak and run to the Group 1 semifinals. (TYSON TRISH/Staff Photographer)
This improbable Secaucus run might seem to have come out of nowhere, but it wasn’t as surprising to some of the Patriots players. On May 20 — one day prior to the their first-round state tournament win over Dayton and two days following Secaucus’ Hudson County Tournament final win over top-seeded North Bergen — Roesing, Koerner and Julia McClure (who broke up Whippany Park pitcher Jenn Sanislo’s no-hitter with a two-out single up the middle in the 4th) all agreed something clicked with the Patriots in late April.
It was a pair of one-run extra-inning losses to two high-profile programs — Paramus Catholic on April 27 and Rutherford on April 29 (both 3-2 defeats) — that gave the Pats confidence and showed they can play with just about anyone around. Could they have envisioned this type of magical run back in late April? Probably not. But they saw the potential was there…
“We realized when we didn’t have the league that it was time to look for better things coming up,” Koerner said during the May 20 practice. “We would have loved to win the league, but to win the county — something we’ve never done before — that was great. … We have eight seniors on this team, so it’s all or nothing now. In a way, we want to leave our mark. After our last loss to Rutherford, to play two good teams like that in a row and stay with them for nine innings both times, we were like, ‘You know what? We can go far and do a lot of great things if we play 100 percent every day.’ Some of our losses this year we have beat ourselves.”
By the way, all six of Secaucus’ losses this year have come to Top 25 teams: New Milford (twice), Immaculate Conception, Lyndhurst, Paramus Catholic and Rutherford.
“I said to them, ‘You have all these close games, but you’re not good until you beat a good team,’ ” Bott said at the same May 20 practice a few weeks ago. “Now they know they can play with these teams. … We got to six losses and dropped out of the rankings. Like I tell them, though, I don’t care about that in the middle of the year. We were out of it for a while, but I told them I want us to be in the top 10 at the end of the season. Then we beat Lyndhurst and got back in it, we beat North Bergen and made a jump, and it’s all about where we are at the end. Not at the beginning, not in the middle. If you can learn from a loss during the regular season, then it’s a good loss.”
Since that April 29 loss to Rutherford, Secaucus hasn’t lost again. It has won 14 straight games, went undefeated in the month of the May, and has already set the program record for wins in a season with 24 (previous record was 22). Now, only Saddle Brook stands between Secaucus and a trip to Toms River for the Group 1 state championship.
Koerner said the Pats’ senior-laden squad wanted to leave their mark in Secaucus. They’ve already done that.
Now, they’re just thinking they’ve got two more parties to crash.