Back home following her freshman year at Ithaca College, Brooke Powers returned to the Pope John softball field to pitch batting practice.
Lions coach Frank Canning was thrilled about the appearance by his former ace, who was on hand to get her former teammates ready for their Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament final against North Hunterdon.
"Having Brooke pitch to the girls helped a lot," Canning said of Powers, an Empire 8 All-Conference First Team selection as a designated player. "They needed to see good pitching before the game."
A day later, May 18, Pope John was making good choices and solid contact in the H/W/S. Still, Mason Spichinger, aided by strong defense, took a perfect game into the seventh inning.
Four consecutive hits in the top of the seventh, including Christina Marinaro's two-run bases-loaded single up the middle, provided the Lions with a 2-0 victory over North Hunterdon at Diamond Nation in Flemington.
"We were hitting the ball pretty well," Canning said. "I never thought we wouldn't win it. I figured, sooner or later, it'd fall in for us. It was just a matter of time. We were playing great defense and Mary (Adams), our pitcher, hung in there.
"The girls deserved it. They played hard and didn't give up."
Several times, the Lions (20-9) were robbed of extra base hits. Julia Arthur, North Hunterdon's left fielder, had an excellent defensive game, depriving player after player of an extra base hit.
Arthur made a running catch to steal a hit from the Lions' Kaylee Powers in the first inning. In the third inning, Kaitlyn Morrison had a fly ball caught deep in left field. Julia Engdahl had a hit taken away when Arthur raced in and snared the ball which was slicing away.
"We were hitting the ball pretty well," Canning said. "The North Hunterdon left fielder just made catch after catch."
Spichiger, who had only four strikeouts, got the first out of the seventh inning before Alyssa Bolger bunted safely. Kaylee Powers had an infield single. Toni Santonastasso's base hit loaded the bases. Marinaro, the No. 5 hitter, then delivered, plating two runners.
"The girls were into the game. They were determined and focused," Canning said. "I told them to be to the field at 6:15 p.m. and they were there way before. They were into it and ready. We stayed up for the whole game and didn't waver. Their heads weren't down."
Jefferson 2, Hanover Park 0
Jefferson scored twice in the top of the seventh inning and recorded a victory over Hanover Park on Thursday, May 16.
Anna Carlson had two hits, including a double, for the Falcons (20-6). Melissa Jurkiewicz went the distance, striking out eight and walking one.
Sam Snyder struck out seven and walked three for the Hornets.
Parsippany 4, Hackettstown 3
Taylor Scott drove in the decisive run with a single in the bottom of the seventh inning, snapping a 3-3 deadlock and lifting the Red Hawks on Thursday, May 16.
Parsippany (9-12) tied the score in the sixth. Amanda Angulo tied the score with a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Winning pitcher Victoria Rossi struck out one and scattered seven hits.
Butler 4, Kinnelon 2
Kayla Logan scattered seven hits, struck out 10 and walked three when Butler recorded a victory over Kinnelon on Wednesday, May 15.
Alex Spellman (2 for 4, RBI) an Larissa Spellman (2 for 4, RBI) were the only Bulldogs to have multiple hits. Allison DePuyt and Taylor Russnak knocked in Butler's other runs. The Bulldogs are 17-5.
Katie Veltri had two hits for the Colts, who scored in the first and third innings.
Pope John 12, Vernon 2
Hitting standouts were abundant when Pope John defeated Vernon on Tuesday, May 14.
Julia Engdahl went 4 for 5 with an RBI for the Lions. Christina Marinaro and Julia Depuyt had three hits apiece. Depuyt drove in three runs. Among her hits was a double.
Pope John pitcher Adrianna Barone had three strikeouts, walked none and gave up five hits. The Lions are 18-8.
Morristown 2, Randolph 0
Sophomore righty Nicole Rhoades' four-hitter highlighted the Colonials' win over the Rams on Tuesday, May 14.
Rhoades struck out six and walked two.
The Colonials' top hitters were Victoria Kapp (two hits, run scored) and Lauren Champi (two hits, RBI). Alex Gleason drove in a run for Morristown (11-8). Kelly O'Neill singled and doubled for Randolph (13-9).
Pequannock 18, Butler 1
Nicole Hernandez and Eleni Lutas had three hits and two RBIs each to buoy the Golden Panthers on Tuesday, May 14.
Hernandez doubled for Pequannock (17-4). Lutas scored twice. Jen Daniels contributed three hits for the winners.
Additional players with two RBIs were Christina Brizek, Bridget Carr, and Stephanie Pomante. Aleks Apkarian, Brianne Lipinski and Wendy Maurer had hits for Butler (16-5).
West Morris 8, Parsippany Hills 0
Becca Raymond and Allie McCourt attained the 100th hits of their careers when West Morris shut out Parsippany Hills on Monday, May 13.
Raymond, who had two hits and knocked in two runs, now has 101 hits for her career. McCourt rapped out three hits, including a triple, to send her total to 101.
Pitcher Jamie Fesinstine notched her 350th career strikeout, finishing with 10. Courtney Chase went 2 for 4 with an RBI and run scored for the Wolfpack.
Mackenzie Brown and Kylie Taylor had a hit apiece for the Vikings.
Pope John 7, Sparta 2
The Lions, behind the hitting of Toni Santonastasso and Kaitlyn Morrison, landed a berth in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex final with a win over Sparta on Monday, May 13.
Santonastasso had two doubles, a home run and drove in three runs in this semifinal. Morrison doubled and had three RBIs for Pope John (17-8).
Julia Engdahl went 4 for 4 for the winners. Mary Adams went the distance in the circle, allowing seven hits while striking out four and walking none.
Jefferson 9, Wallkill Valley 0
Melissa Jurkiewicz fired a one-hitter, striking out 14, to boost the Falcons on Monday, May 13.
Jurkiewicz, a junior right-hander, walked only two as Jefferson moved its record to 18-6. Adreanna Nordland was the only player to break through against the Falcons' ace.
Lauren Gutowski had three hits, including a triple, and knocked in three runs for the winners. Katie Lisa had two hits.
Butler 5, Morris Catholic 1
Larissa Spellman's one-hitter and the batting of Brianne Lipinski (3 for 4, double) and Aleks Apkarian (2 for 3, triple, two RBIs) powered the Bulldogs on Monday, May 13.
Spellman, who had eight strikeouts and four walks over six innings, contributed to the offense, picking up two RBIs for Butler (16-4).
The Bulldogs led 3-0 in the first inning. The Crusaders dropped to 6-10.
Morristown-Beard 10, Morris Tech 0
Hannah Guenther rapped out two hits, one of them a double, and knocked in three runs to pace the Crimson on Monday, May 13.
Additional offensive standouts for Morristown-Beard (5-15) were Vincina Bivona, Lauren Conway, Gina Finelli and Lindsay Reeth. Bivona, Conway and Finelli had two hits apiece while Reeth had three. Dana Riback drove in two runs.
The 14-hit attack was in support of Lauren Conway. Conway struck out eight and yielded four hits.
St. John Vianney 2, Morris Knolls 0
Jackie Gallagher's sacrifice fly and an error accounted for St. John Vianney's run in the sixth inning when it defeated Morris Knolls on Monday, May 13.
Marlena Bevilacqua had a bunt single with one out in the sixth and stole second. Amanda Durham then walked. A double steal moved the runners to second and third. Bevilacqua scored on Gallagher's sacrifice fly and Durham scored on the miscue.
Katie Beriont (16-1) was the winning pitcher, striking out six, walking none and giving up four hits. Kim Felix (10-1) absorbed the loss. She struck out four, walked one and surrendered four hits. Mia Baldassari went 3 for 3 with a double for the Golden Eagles.
Boonton 5, Sussex Tech 0
Senior righty Kylie Morgan hurled a three-hitter and recorded eight strikeouts to lift the Bombers on Monday, May 13.
Morgan helped herself by going 3 for 3, including a home run. She drove in three runs for Boonton (11-9).
Anna Lee Smith had a hit and a stolen base.
Roxbury 8, Randolph 2
Ally Synder homered twice and singled to propel the Gaels past the Rams on Monday, May 13. Snyder finished with four RBIs.
Erica Figurelli came up with a pair of hits and drove in a run for Roxbury (12-8).
Sammie Darling surrendered six hits and went the distance for the Gaels. She struck out four. Lauren Mastropierro had two hits for Randolph (13-8).
Hanover Park 6, Villa Walsh 0
Hanover Park had a shutout victory over the Vikings paced by Sam Snyder's three-hitter on Monday, May 13.
Snyder ended with eight strikeouts.
Alex Cosenzo had two hits and knocked in a run for the Hornets, now 15-5.