Photo by Sandy Seegers Mendham's Gabby Donofrio gets set to make a throw after fielding a groundball in a game versus Parsippany in April of 2018.
MADISON _ In a back-and-forth struggle, it was a spirited Mendham team that struck the final decisive blow.
The Minutemen scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning to earn a 6-4 victory over Hanover Park in a Morris County Softball Tournament quarterfinal game at the Madison High School Recreation Complex on Monday, May 6.
Mendham, which has won five straight games, moves on to the MCT semifinals on Wednesday night and will take on top-seeded Morris Knolls (18-3) at the Landing Softball Complex in Roxbury. The early MCT semifinal game has sixth-seeded Mount Olive (12-5) taking on seventh-seeded Parsippany (13-4). The two winners will play on Saturday, May 11 at the same site.
Playing under the International tiebreaker rule to start the top of the 10th inning - with the intent of accelerating opportunities to score in hopes of reaching a speedier conclusion - Mendham had Ally Laird, who made the last out in the top of the ninth, placed at second base to begin the frame.
Laird moved to third on a bunt by junior Grace O'Mahoney, who reached first safely on the play. Then sophomore Jamie Carfagna delivered an RBI double into deep left-center field to score Laird with the run that made it 5-4. Following that, junior Georgi Muha came through with a sacrifice fly to right field to make it 6-4.
In the bottom of the 10th, Hanover Park's No. 9 hitter, Brielle Junda, was placed at second base. Laird, the starting and winning pitcher, then allowed a single to center field to leadoff batter and center fielder Aryana Galioto, moving Junda to third base and then second baseman Ashley Alfano sacrifice bunted Galioto to second base to put the tying runs in scoring position with one out.
But Laird then bore down, inducing a popup and then a strikeout to send Mendham to its first MCT semifinals in more than a decade. The one and only time Mendham won the MCT was 33 years ago in 1986 when the Minutemen (11-5) defeated Parsippany for the title behind the superb pitching of current coach Lori Welles.
"This team has something special about it. They play with a great deal of heart all the time," said 18th-year coach Welles, who was also a standout pitcher at County College of Morris, the University of South Carolina and Seton Hall University. "We just keep battling and fighting and we stay in every game with a great combination of offense, defense and pitching."
Laird tossed a complete game, scattering 10 hits, striking out six and walking four. Laird, a junior, and her batterymate, her sister, senior catcher Emily Laird, behind the plate for the first time in her scholastic career this season starting on opening day in early April, contributed in a big way, throwing out two attempted basestealers early in the game to keep potential Hornet scoring threats to a minimum.
Fourth-seeded Hanover Park (12-4), which had a five-game winning streak snapped, advanced to the county quarterfinals by defeating 13th-seeded Morris Tech, 11-4, in the second round after earning a first-round bye.
Twelfth-seeded Mendham, winner of five straight games, beat No. 21 Boonton, 6-5, in 11 innings in the MCT's first round, coming back with one run in the bottom of the 10th to tie it 4-4 and two in the bottom of the 11th to win it, 6-5, after Boonton had scored one run each in the top of the 10th and 11th to take a one-run lead each time under the International tiebreaker rules. In the MCT second round, the Minutemen surprised fourth-seeded Jefferson, 7-6.
Hanover Park, a never-say-die team, tied it in the bottom of the seventh, 4-4, with a three-run outburst. An RBI single by right fielder Victoria LoPinto, a ground ball for an RBI by pitcher Adrianna Carter and LoPinto scoring on a passed ball brought the Hornets back from a 4-1 deficit. However, Ally Laird stranded the potential winning run at second by inducing a ground out to third base to end the seventh.
Mendham, leading 3-1, added a run in the top of the seventh on a two-out RBI double from Carfagna.
Hanover Park had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on a one-out triple by Galioto and a two-out RBI double by catcher Nicole Miller. But Ally Laird escaped further trouble with a strikeout to end the inning.
Mendham took a 3-1 advantage with three runs in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Ally Laird, another run-scoring single from Carfagna and a sacrifice fly by Muha.
Right-handed pitcher Carter came up big in defeat for Hanover Park, throwing a complete game, allowing 12 hits and striking out five and walking five.
"I knew they had a number of people on base but we just wanted to limit their opportunities as best as we could," said Ally Laird. "We have a big group (19 players on Mendham roster) and everyone is contributing. It's been a real fun season so far."
Emily Laird was also a big factor in the game and both she and sister Ally play for the New Jersey Heat travel softball team based out of Howell in Northern Monmouth County.
"Hanover Park was aggressive on the bases. I just wanted to get off as good and quick a throw as I could on the stolen base attempts," said Emily Laird. "We feel whatever the score is we have a chance to win in the end."
Hanover Park still sits atop the NJAC-Liberty Division standings with a 6-1 record, leading 8-2 and second-place Parsippany and 6-2 and third-place Whippany Park in the standings. The Hornets are right now the No. 1 seed in North 2, Group II through power-point standings of Sunday, May 5.
Mendham is also in the thick of things in the North 2, Group III power-point standings and is 3-2 in the NJAC-National Division, good for third place behind first place Morristown (5-2) and West Morris (5-3).
Last modified onFriday, 17 May 2019 14:50