DENVILLE _ With the way Morris Catholic's Gianna Foreman been ripping into the ball of late, it's hard to fathom that she's ever experienced a slump.
Early in April, however, Foreman, the Crusaders' cleanup hitter and third baseman, was in a deep preseason funk. She was dropping her shoulder and her pitch selection was lacking.
"It was my head, too," the junior slugger said.
After sitting out the first game with a knee injury, Foreman soon rediscovered her power stroke and has been coming up big at the plate. On Tuesday, May 18, Foreman hit her fifth home run, a two-run shot to left-center field in the third inning, to help power second-seeded Morris Catholic past No. 18 Butler 9-0 in a Morris County Tournament second-round game.
Foreman's homer knocked in Kate Heslin, who singled to open the inning. She was waiting for a first strike and got one. A perfect one.
"It was right down the middle," said Foreman, 5 for 9 with six RBIs and three extra base hits over her last three games. "I was relaxed and trying not to do too much. I felt great. And my teammates were cheering me on."
The Crusaders (15-1) have had a lot to be excited about this spring. It all begins with their attack, which has amassed 168 runs. The lineup is formidable. Atop it is Jess Brown, a sophomore outfielder who has rapped out 30 hits, scored 23 runs and stolen 18 bases. Shortstop Gabby Gesualdo has 27 hits in the No. 2 spot. Kate Heslin (21 hits, 19 RBIs), Foreman and Hailee Sobieski (19 hits) are Nos. 3, 4 and 5.
In the lower part of the order are Dani Berlin (17 hits, 18 RBIs), Hannah Streicher and Alex Eckerson. Not everyone boasts hefty offensive numbers but they're more than capable of coming up clutch.
Morris Catholic scored three times in the first inning. Brown and Gesualdo bunted to get on then stole three bases between them. Sobieski highlighted the inning with a run-producing double to bring in the third run.
Foreman, though, didn't feel comfortable with the lead and was intent on doing her part to widen the Crusaders' advantage. She then came through with the home run. Sobieski followed with a double.
"Gianna's been on a tear," Morris Catholic coach Nick DeGennaro said. "She's hit long balls for a long time. We're in the same club organization (New Jersey Pride) so she worked over the summer with our hitting coach (Nick Puglisi)."
Foreman's mother, Gina, a 1993 Morris Catholic graduate who was a three-sport standout, serves as an assistant coach. They joke about who has the most home runs but, according to Gianna, her mother tells her little about her playing days.
"When my dad says I have more home runs than my mom, she gets salty," the younger Foreman said with a grin.
Winning pitcher Carly Mockenhaupt had plenty to smile about following the win over Butler. The sophomore right-hander yielded four hits, two to Devin DiLiberto, and struck out nine. Mockenhaupt was proud to be a factor in her first appearance in the MCT.
"It felt good," Mockenhaupt said. "We came in here to have fun. We've been together as a team even with the COVID-19 restrictions. We've been making it work. I felt confident today. All of my pitches were on. We needed good plays in the field and we got them."
Mockenhaupt retired the first seven batters she faced before DiLiberto rapped out a base hit. The only other players to reach her for a hit were Julia Fiorenza and Hannah Beveridge.
"Carly is such a bulldog," DeGennaro said. "She can be a power pitcher. She blossomed in the last year. She's not fazed by anything."
Butler coach Brittany Marion knew it would be tough to contend with the Crusaders, who will face Madison on Saturday, May 22 in a MCT quarterfinal.
"Morris Catholic is such a good team," Marion said. "We haven't faced bats like this. Our pitcher held them off a bit. I figured there might be even more extra base hits today. We're a young team. We're improving. We're just unable to string hits together right now. We've got great kids and they're having fun."
Although Morris Catholic put in a dominant effort, DeGennaro said the team, of course, will continue finetuning in all areas.
"We've got things we need to do," he said. "A few things were exposed. We need to work more on baserunning. Our small ball worked well. Our pitchers will have to be tougher. This is the hardest-working team I've ever had in softball. Many of them are going from here to lift or to take lessons. We've gotten a culture going."
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***
Latest from Sandy Seegers