PARSIPPANY _ Greg Cleary isn't concerned very much about what Jenna Devens does in the batter's box.
Cleary, of course, will take whatever offensive contributions he can get from Devens, Parsippany's freshman right-handed pitcher.
Devens fired a three-hitter and struck out 12 when the Red Hawks defeated Mendham, hot off a victory over Chatham, 12-2, on Thursday, April 12. She also had a pair of home runs, one of them in the eight-run fourth inning, amd knocked in five runs.
The win enabled Parsippany to remain undefeated after six games. A day later, the Red Hawks topped Butler 10-9 to send their record to 7-0. On Tuesday, April 17, they were voted the top seed for the Morris County Softball Tournament.
"Hitting is secondary for Jenna," Cleary said. "I want her to be as solid as she can be in the circle. Anything she does at the plate is an added bonus."
Devens, seventh in the batting order, said she has never had two home runs in a game. She has, however, hit two in the same day when playing in summer tournaments.
The first home run Devens hit was a grand slam in the fourth inning and it gave Parsippany a 4-2 lead. It came off a 1-1 pitch and was a line drive to center field, clearing the 198-foot fence. Lilianna Vidal walked and Alivia Mercuro and Tori Freire singled to set the stage for Devens' blast.
"I've been in a little slump," Devens said. "I had a few base hits but I was struggling. I was striking out and popping up. I'm happy about having two home runs. Mendham was winning 2-0 and I was a little worried. I felt we'd come back. I had a feeling."
Parsippany, the defending MCT champion, roared back in the fourth inning. Eleven hitters took their turns in the batter's box and rapped out six hits. Vidal, the cleanup hitter, also homered for the Red Hawks in the fourth inning. The ball she slugged over the fence came off a 1-1 offering and put Parsippany in front, 8-2. The inning also featured a double by Rachel Volarich and a squeeze bunt by Claudia Bennett (4 for 4, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs).
"We just woke up," said Red Hawks center fielder Julia Vincent (3 for 4, RBI). "We got aggressive. We wanted it more."
In the fifth inning, Parsippany, which sometimes has 6 a.m. batting practices on game days, tacked on three more runs. Devens had a solo homer in that inning, once again sending the ball to center field. Bennett had her fourth hit, an RBI single to left field. Vincent drove in a run with a hard-hit base hit off the second baseman's glove. Devens' single in the sixth inning plated the Red Hawks' last run and ended the game.
Cleary noted that the home runs were line drives and not towering blasts.
"I liked that they were line drives that left the park," he said. "I'm big on that approach. When there are high strikes, you need to change your swing. It's like a plane landing, not taking off."
An error and a single by Julia Buckley provided Mendham with its two runs in the second inning.
"We're much more competitive than this," Mendham coach Lori Welles said. "We made some mistakes and Parsippany capitalized. Parsippany hits very well There are great hitters in their lineup. You have to be aware of all of them."
The Red Hawks are intent on having a successful season and defending their Morris County Tournament title despite losing shortstop Luisa Barone (hip surgery).
"We want to do it again," Vincent said. "We have the fire."
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