The jockeying between the Hillsborough and Hunterdon Central high school softball teams as the area’s premier program came to a screeching halt Thursday, and it couldn’t have happened in a more dominating and decisive fashion.
Senior right-hander Alexis Schengrund fired a one-hit shutout and struck out 17, and junior catcher Alyssa VanDerveer blasted three hits, including two home runs, and drove in eight runs, as Hillsborough unleashed its fury to the tune of an 11-0 six-inning victory at Hunterdon Central Regional High School.
“We’re not invincible, we know that, we have to come to play,” said Hillsborough coach Cheryl Iaione, whose team improved to 8-1, with the lone loss coming in a hard-fought game with Immaculate Heart, the state’s top-ranked team. “We expected Central to give us a battle, and they fought to the end. It’s a great rivalry, but I feel like it’s time for us to take the next step. And based on the outcome today, yeah, I think we’ve taken that next step.”
Schengrund was nearly unhittable, as she recorded 17 of her 18 outs via strikeout, walked four, and allowed just one hit – a two-out bunt single in the third inning by Caitlin Lake that she barely beat out and that the umpire could have called either way.
“Mostly everything was working,” said Schengrund, who improved to 4-0. “(Catcher) Alyssa (VanDerveer) and I work so well together. I think I shook her off, maybe, twice today. She calls a great game and I just throw the pitches.”
“Alexis had really great movement on the ball and we just weren’t able to adjust to that,” said Lake, who also reached on a fifth-inning walk. “We also couldn’t adjust to the strike zone that the umpire was calling, so we were just off today, I guess.”
While Hillsborough collected eight hits and drew five walks, it was VanDerveer who led the attack, finishing 3-for-3 with a walk, a double, two homers – including a grand slam – and eight RBI.
The Raiders’ cleanup hitter got her memorable day going early, as she blasted a two-out, two-run homer in the first inning to give her team a 2-0 lead, before adding a two-out grand slam in the second inning with a mammoth blast down the left-field line that capped a five-run frame.
After walking on four pitches nowhere near the strike zone in the fourth inning, VanDerveer delivered the final blow in the top of the sixth, crushing a two-run double off the right-center field fence.
“A lot of us had a great approach coming to the plate,” said VanDerveer, whose team also got two RBI from Alison Shimko and one from Donna Conrad. “We all knew what we were doing when we came up to the plate and that was the main thing.”
“The kids have the confidence they can hit the ball,” Iaione said. “And with the pitching we have, if we get a seven-run lead, it’s going to be hard to score that many on us.”