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MC's power surge results in MCT championship

Morris Catholic players greet Marielle Balonze, far right, at the plate in the fifth inning. Balonze scored on Brynn Lukacs' home run. Photos by Maryann Harlow Morris Catholic players greet Marielle Balonze, far right, at the plate in the fifth inning. Balonze scored on Brynn Lukacs' home run.
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ROXBURY _ Morris Catholic's Brynn Lukacs wore her newly acquired "jewelry" with the utmost pride following the Crusaders' 3-1 victory over Randolph in the Morris County Softball Tournament final.

The oversized necklace - a round, painted wooden disc attached to a white plastic chain - is reserved for players who hit home runs. And, Lukac's homer, a two-run blast to right-center field in the fifth inning, was just like the clunky chain adorning her neck - huge and attenting getting.

"I try not to do too much when I'm up," said Lukacs, a junior designated player. "I'm a control hitter. I just want to help my team get runs in. All I wanted to do was get us on the board."

The clutch blast, which staked second-seeded Morris Catholic to a 2-0 lead, came with one out and was off a 1-0 pitch. An error gave the Crusaders, who have claimed three of the last four MCT championships, a baserunner and started off the bottom of the fifth. After a strikeout, Lukacs connected for Morris Catholic's first hit of the game. Prior to that, Rams pitcher Bree Colburn was breezing through.

All of the runs scored in the game held at Landing Park on Saturday, May 11 were off the long ball. In the top of the sixth, the Rams battled back with a power hit of their own, getting a monstrous one-out homer from Autumn Liebhauser. A double by Rebecca Dasti and an error ensued, putting runners on first and second. A wild pitch moved both runners over. Sofia Reisinger of Morris Catholic, the tournament MVP, fanned the next two batters to escape the jam.

Later, it was Kate Heslin’s turn to crush the ball in the sixth, blastingi a solo shot to left field for Morris Catholic for 3-1. Heslin, the cleanup hitter, made contact with a 3-0 pitch to record her eighth homer of the spring and got to wear the home run necklace. The idea was brought to the team by freshman Ava Florio, who borrowed it from her club team.

"I'm excited," said Heslin, headed to UMass Amherst. "I was happy that I could get more of a lead for our team. I wanted to square up."

In the top of the fifth inning, Randolph had an opportunity to score. The Rams moved a runner to third on Daniella Gizienski’s single, a sacrifice bunt and a groundout. Reisinger shut down the threat with a strikeout.

Crusaders coach Nick DeGennaro was elated by the authority contained in his players' bats, as well as Liebhauser's, considering the stellar pitching duel between Reisinger and Randolph ace Bree Colburn.

"I was very relieved and very happy," said DeGennaro, whose squad extended its winning streak to seven with the victory. "Randolph gave us a great game. Colbrun pitched very well and made it tough on us. We just stuck to what we do. We were lucky to get ahold of two pitches."

DeGennaro was especially pleased with Lukacs, who transferred from Madison High School to Morris Catholic (16-3) as a sophomore. Lukacs has only one other homer in high school. She hit it in this year's season opener vs. Parsippany on April 11. She came close to another at Red Bank Catholic after connecting off standout Lily Hagan, who will pitch for Notre Dame University. The ball didn't make it out, though, hitting off the plastic fence topper and dropping back onto the field for a double.

"Brynn has battled," DeGennaro said. "We have a lot of depth and have had many different lineups. Sometimes, Brynn hasn't been in the lineup. She's making it count. I always tell her 'Don't make me take you out.' Brynn comes to play every day."

The date will be written on the home run ball and it'll have a place of honor on Lukacs' memorabilia shelf, right next to her trophies. 

Reisinger, once again, was exceptional, striking out 12, walking one and yielding five hits. She retired 12 of the first 13 batters. Randolph tested her again, getting runners to second and third with one out in the top of the seventh inning. The game ended with two groundouts.

"We're a winning team," Heslin said. "We're notorious for it. We expect nothing less."

The Rams appeared in the MCT title game two other times - in 1995 and 1996 - yet came up empty. Randolph has a roster loaded with freshmen and sophomores, including Colburn, so they could make another deep run in 2025.

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

Last modified onTuesday, 14 May 2024 10:28
Sandy Seegers

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