The Hanover Park softball team kept rolling in a NJSIAA Group II semifinal, and made history on Tuesday with a 3-2 victory over Mahwah.
The Hornets (21-6) now advance to their first-ever state championship game. Hanover Park, the North 2 Group II champion, will face Robbinsville, the Central Group II champ, in the state final on Saturday in Toms River.
“I’m so proud that we’ve gotten to this point,” Hornets junior pitcher Sam Snyder said. “Our team has never done this in all of our existence, first time in school history, and we feel just proud, so overwhelmed.”
With two outs in the top of the seventh and junior second baseman Raquel Mogavero on second base, senior third baseman Chrissy Amendola singled to drive Mogavero home and give the Hornets the 3-2 lead. Amendola was thrown out at second trying to stretch her single into a double to end the inning.
“We came out a little bit flat but at the end of the game they really got up and I know how bad they wanted to win,” Hanover Park coach Kristen Hogan said. “Chrissy came through for us again, she had a big hit against West Essex to win the game and she did it again. I told her after her at-bat there’s nobody better, she’s the one I wanted up at bat so she came through.”
Hanover Park took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Mogavero scored on a two-out double by freshman first baseman Alex Consenzo. Mahwah (21-10) scored in the bottom of the first for a 1-1 tie. After a scoreless second inning, Mogavero opened the top of the third with a walk. Amendola grounded out to third to move Mogavero to second and senior shortstop Nicole Fernicola popped out to short. With two outs freshman center fielder Nicole Petrovich hit a line-drive to right field to score Mogavero for the 2-1 lead. Consenso then grounded out to end the inning.
In the top of the third, Snyder got the first batter to fly out to right field but gave up a single to center fielder Taylor Ziman. Ziman stole second, reached third on a passed ball and scored on a sac fly by third baseman Julieanne Vesce to tie the game 2-2. With two outs the Thunderbirds loaded the bases on an error, a single and a walk, but Snyder got first baseman Olivia Bell to strike out to end the inning.
“(Sam) pitched really well,” Hogan said. “It was pretty hot out today, they challenged her a little bit, she had a couple balls, couple walks but when it came down to it she really pulled through and she pitched another good game, she’s been pitching great, she really has.”
Both teams mustered hits in the next three innings but neither team could capitilize until the top of the seventh when Hanover Park scored the winning run.