LODI _ Par-Troy East's Luisa Barone and her father, Dominick, watched the MLB Home Run Derby together on Monday night.
Barone witnessed blast after blast clearing the fences and marveled at the power displayed by the players. When the event was over, New Jersey native Todd Frazier, who played at Rutgers and was a standout at Toms River South High School and for his Little League All-Star squad, was the champion.
Less than 24 hours later, Barone, the leadoff hitter and shortstop, was part of the power show put on by Par-Troy East, slugging a grand slam to highlight a seven-run third inning and helping PTE to a 17-1 win over Elmora on the opening day of the Senior Little League State Tournament on Tuesday, July 14.
Catcher Elizabeth Quigley deposited two balls over the fence, hitting a grand slam in the second inning and a two-run shot in the third.
PTE triumphed on Wednesday, July 15 in a winners' bracket game at the state tournament, beating Monroe, 12-2. PTE received 13 of its 19 hits from the top three batters in its order. Barone (5 for 5, 5 runs, RBI), Quigley (4 for 5, 2 runs, 4 RBIs) and Meg Leitner (4 for 5, 2 runs, 3 RBIs) continued their hot hitting.
"As leadoff batter, all I'm trying to do it get on base," Barone said following Tuesday's game. "Maybe it was something about watching sports before a game. I get inspired and feel I should do something like that. It motivates me."
Both of the grand slams came off first pitches. Quigley, who homered four times for Morris County School of Technology in the spring, had never hit two home runs in a game before.
Quigley, the No. 3 batter, thought she "popped up the first one" and didn't at all think it'd wind up over the fence. The second homer, she said, "felt good" and was "more solid."
"I couldn't believe it," Quigley said. "It's not something I expected."
She also didn't anticipate that PTE would be so dominant, accumulating 18 hits. Next up for PTE is Monroe, which secured a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Middletown by scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. That game is slated for Wednesday, July 15 at 8 p.m. at the Lodi Little League Complex.
"We'll take them," said PTE manager Rich Leitner of the home runs. "You draw up your game plan and then you go out there and hit and hit and hit. To have three home runs... It was great. It's all good stuff."
It absolutely was. Winning pitcher Caitlin Brennan didn't even have time to get nervous about the opener. Within two innings, Brennan and PTE held a 6-0 lead. Brennan went four innings, striking out six, before Nicole Ruggiero came in on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Brennan was effective again, allowing only two unearned runs and striking out 14 Monroe batters.
Barone doubled in her first at-bat in the opener, stole second and scored on Leitner's sacrifice fly. Brennan made it 2-0 with an RBI single. Quigley's grand slam extended PTE's advantage to 6-0 in the second inning.
PTE erupted for seven runs in the third courtesy of several extra base hits. Claudia Bennett (3 for 4) doubled off the fence then Ruggiero had a two-base hit to drive her in. Barone hit her grand slam before Leitner singled and stole second. Quigley's two-run homer ensued.
"I never hit a grand slam so I was pretty excited," Barone said. "I'm speechless. I feel proud. I got confidence from it. I wanted to help the team. That's what I wanted most of all."
The four-run fifth inning featured base hits by Carly Homler and Barone. Quigley drew a walk. Brennan then knocked in another run. Bennett had a two-run single. The last run scored on an error. Elmora posted its run in the fourth inning.
"I didn't think we'd get this many runs," Barone said. "We just came out and did our jobs. Having three home runs was good. I never thought that would happen."
Against Monroe, PTE got its first run on a Quigley single. In the second inning, base hits by Quigley and Alivia Mercuro drove in runs. An error accounted for the fourth run. Leitner doubled off the fence in center field in the third inning to give PTE its sixth and seventh runs.
Back-to-back doubles by Barone and Leitner produced one of four runs in the fifth inning. Quigley had an RBI single and Ruggiero added a two-run double. In the sixth inning of the second game, PTE closed out its scoring. Barone singled and stole second before Quigley plated her with a single.
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