SADDLE BROOK — Saddle Brook relief pitcher Danielle Archibold’s job was to slow the bleeding caused by a three-run first inning for Boonton. She didn’t let another runner cross home plate. In fact, she didn’t let another runner reach first base.
No. 1 Saddle Brook beat No. 13 Boonton, 6-3, in North 1 Group 1 sectional semifinals Thursday. Archibold entered the game in the third inning for starting pitcher Alexia Russo, who allowed three runs in the opening frame. Only one was earned — a homer by Boonton’s No. 3 hitter, Kelly Whritenour.
A series of errors on one play led to the other two runs.
Russo pitched a strong second inning, but White decided to hand the ball to Archibold the rest of the way. White said the heat was a factor, and he wanted to keep Russo fresh for Saddle Brook’s game today against New Milford.
“If it doesn’t work, it looks dumb,” White said. “But we get stronger defensively when Danielle is pitching just because [Russo], besides being a good pitcher, she’s an All-County caliber infielder. Her glove at third base is as good as anyone’s around.”
Russo cleanly fielded some ground balls at the hot corner to hold up Archibold’s perfect five-inning performance. Archibold helped her own cause in the circle by striking out five.
“My inside fastball was working very well,” Archibold said. “I’m quite tired, but during the game I wasn’t tired at all. I think [White] is kind of splitting the games now so I’m always ready whenever he calls on me.”
Archibold kept it possible for Saddle Brook’s offense to climb back over the course of the game. Five players batted in runs for the Falcons, while shortstop Lorena Alvarez and center fielder Gina Gravina both scored twice.
Natalie Alvarez successfully executed a safety squeeze in the fifth inning to cap Saddle Brook’s day at the plate.
“We were sloppy in the first inning and they definitely capitalized on that,” White said. “But I was happy with how we settled down in the field the rest of the game and chipped away. We were confident that once we tied it, now it’s 0-0.”
Saddle Brook will play No. 3 New Milford today in the sectional finals. The Falcons will have experience on their side, as their seniors have played for a sectional championship every year.