Extra-inning softball had been a mixed bag for Jessie Koerner and her Secaucus teammates heading into the Hudson County Softball Tournament final against North Bergen.
One victory. Two defeats. And one giant helping of invaluable experience.
So when the Patriots surrendered the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning in Saturday’s title game, Koerner and Co. were impervious to the pressure waiting for them in the eighth inning.
Koerner and Kim Alfonso produced a pair of RBI singles in the top of the eighth, lifting Secaucus to a 4-2 victory at the Thomas M. Gerrity Athletic Complex in Jersey City, as well as the school’s first Hudson County Softball Tournament championship.
“We’ve been in three other extra inning games,” said Secaucus coach Cherryl Bott. “That situation, I never felt that my team sensed pressure, because they’ve been through it.”
Koerner, the team’s starting catcher, gave the Patriots (20-6) a 3-2 lead when she jumped on the first pitch she saw from North Bergen pitcher Jessica Feria and deposited it into right field. Kendall Caruso (2-3), who walked earlier in the inning, came around to score what would stand as the winning run.
“Basically I was saying, ‘I’m not going down with out a fight,’ ” said Koerner, who had three of her team’s eight hits. “There was no way we weren’t coming out with this (win).”
But the Patriots weren’t through. Two batters later, Alfonso plated Julia McClure with an RBI single, giving senior pitcher Danielle Roesing the cushion she needed to lock down the bottom half of the inning.
Roesing, who struck out 13 batters and scattered five hits, struck out North Bergen’s always dangerous shortstop Nerylix Cerda for the first out of the eighth. Then came a one-out single by Sabrina Reyes, before Roesing coerced Feria into a fielder’s choice for the second out. The Patriots senior hurler put the finishing touches on the victory by getting Victoria Avella to fly out to end the game.
“We’ve been here before, we knew what to do,” said Roesing. “We were confident that we were going to get some more runs, some more hits.”
Secaucus would have celebrated an inning earlier had it not been for North Bergen’s Alize Sarmiento, who tied the game with a two-out RBI single to right field. Christina Otero scored from second base on the knock, as the Bruins found new life.
But drawing on previous experience, the Patriots didn’t blink. After all, Bott’s team defeated Lyndhurt 4-3 on May 9 after rallying from three runs down. The Patriots also dropped back-to-back, nine-inning verdicts to Rutherford and Paramus Catholic in late April, both games by 3-2 margins.
This time, however, was different.
Secaucus took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI fielder’s choice from senior first baseman Ariana Simon and an RBI single from sophomore Kaitlin Schlemm.
North Bergen got on the board the following inning by way of a Secaucus fielding error, which allowed Sarmiento to cross homeplate and trim the deficit to 2-1.
But Roesing soon settled into a groove, retiring nine-straight batters between the third and sixth innings. Feria interrupted that streak with a double, but the Bruins couldn’t cash in on her extra base hit, as Roesing recorded her 11th strikeout to end the threat.
Feria finished with 11 strikeouts and three walks, but got into trouble in the eighth when she walked the first two hitters she faced and then gave up a single to McClure. Two batters later, Koerner delivered the game-winning hit.
Secaucus made its first appearance in the title game since a 20-8 loss to High Tech in the 2010 final. Roesing was only a freshman, but saw time in the circle that day, as her team’s five-run fifth inning lead slipped away.
“I didn’t want that deja vu.”
Secaucus (20-6) 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 – 4 8 1
North Bergen (19-5) 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 – 2 5 0