Who: North 2 champ Watchung Hills (24-5) vs. North 1 champ Livingston (25-3)
When/Where: 4 p.m. today/Nutley High School, Nutley
How they got here: Watchung Hills defeated North Hunterdon 1-0 in the North 2 Group IV final. Livingston defeated Morris Knolls 11-3 in the North 1 Group IV final.
Watchung Hills report: After winning their first sectional title since 1995, the Warriors are also looking to return to the group final for the first time since that season and for the first time ever as a Group IV program. Senior Dana Mertz has been at the forefront for Watchung Hills, adding yet another impressive line to her resume when she homered in the top of the seventh inning of Friday’s sectional championship to secure a 1-0 win. Aided by a stellar defense, ace Abby Cline has continued her clutch pitching, as she guided the Warriors through the postseason, taking it to another level in her past two outings by posting shutouts against her section’s two top-seeded teams. Watchung Hills has won six straight and 15 of the its past 16 games and is hoping to add to that today.
Livingston report: The two-time North 1 and reigning Essex County Tournament champs are looking for their first berth in a state final after bringing an undefeated record into last year’s Group IV semifinals and falling to Hunterdon Central. The Lancers, who have won 18 in a row, are led in the circle by senior Jess Peslak, who is 23-3 with a 1.02 ERA and is headed to Hofstra next year. Kylie McLaughlin leads off, giving Livingston a nice mix of speed and power at the top, with Sam Rothenberger, Rachel Wasilak and Marina Lombardi anchoring the middle of an aggressive lineup that will force the action every chance, even while in the field. Watchung Hills has conquered the best of the Skyland Conference, now the Warriors will get a chance at one of North Jersey’s elite.
Prediction: Livingston 4-2