After losing to Dunellen 3-2 one day earlier, the Cardinal McCarrick softball team had another stab at the Destroyers on Wednesday, this time in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament.
The 14th-seeded Eagles stood behind their junior pitcher Jackie Riley, who recorded her 500th career strikeout in the second inning, and took advantage of 19th-seeded Dunellen in the bottom of the first inning as they rolled to a 9-1 victory at Waterfront Park and advanced to face third-seeded Piscataway in the round of 16 on Saturday.
“My coach wouldn’t tell me, he was kind of keeping it a secret from me, so I kind of didn’t know how many I needed,” said Riley, who notched the 500th strikeout with her second fan of the day and allowed an earned run on seven hits while striking out 10 and walking none.
Cardinal McCarrick (10-6) put up a three-run bottom of the first inning against Dunellen (7-9), which appeared very vulnerable early.
After starting pitcher Audrey Mongeau threw four straight balls to Riley to start the game, she didn’t look right as she was bothered by her back and the shoulder area of her throwing arm. Coach Pat Appello opted to make a pitching change and brought in Emily Cody from center field. Cody hadn’t pitched since the first game of last season.
“It’s tough that we lost our pitcher,” said Appello, who noted that the Destroyers’ state playoff game against Dayton today factored on the side of being cautious with Mongeau. “I felt like Cody came in and did a really nice job — didn’t walk anybody and we made a couple errors in the field, which hurt us in the end.”
Cody retired the first batter she faced on a sacrifice bunt, but the next two batters did damage as Sam Napoli hit an RBI single up the middle and senior catcher Brittany Clayton followed with a two-run homer to right to give the Eagles an early 3-0 lead.
“When they switched the pitcher out in the first inning, I kind of thought that we have to take advantage of it right away,” Cardinal McCarrick coach Richard Geisheimer said. “Our bats were on today, we made some great defensive plays — things that we should have done (on Tuesday), obviously we didn’t, but the girls came back today and played hard.”
Cardinal McCarrick broke the game open in the third inning as four Dunellen errors led to four unearned runs and a 7-0 lead.
Clayton went 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs and Napoli finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs for the Eagles. Mongeau and Alex Reidy each went 3-for-3 for Dunellen.
Now Cardinal McCarrick gets a chance to play on “Super Saturday” — a position this current group of players, built around the core of its battery in Riley and Clayton, haven’t experienced as the Eagles last played on Super Saturday four years ago.
“It’s exciting to play on Super Saturday,” Geisheimer said. “There’s 16 quality teams there and the GMC is up for the grabs. If Jackie’s on fire, it could go any way.”