Marisa Monasseri is not your prototypical leadoff hitter — the Monroe softball slugging senior catcher is one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s most feared power hitters and is capable of taking any pitch out of the park.
Against South Plainfield on Monday, Monasseri came up to bat in the bottom of the third inning with runners on first and second and one out in a scoreless game.
She belted a three-run home run to straightaway center field to give Monroe the lead, junior shortstop Casey Schieda drove in two more runs with a bloop single to right field, and senior pitcher Kelly Widener tossed a five-hit shutout as Monroe defeated the Tigers 7-0 to improve to 6-0 on the season.
“It’s funny the way that works out, we try to tell the kids too just because you’re batting leadoff doesn’t mean you’re gonna lead off every inning,” Monroe coach Keith Hudak said. “It will all change around for you according to the game, so it worked out good and obviously her hit was big, no question.”
Gracie Martini reached on an error to start the Monroe third and No. 9 hitter Angela Marzukiewicz drew a one-out walk to give Monasseri a couple base runners for her home run at-bat that gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead.
“I was just waiting for a nice pitch, she was pitching me outside and that (pitch) just went kind of over the plate a little bit more than it usually would, and I just stayed back and drilled it,” Monasseri said.
South Plainfield (5-2) proceeded to intentionally walk Monasseri the next two times she came up in the fifth in sixth innings with first base open.
“A lot of people, they walk me, and I’m okay with that and I know people behind me can drive the runs in and I’m OK with it,” said Monasseri, as Schieda’s bloop hit two batters late in the fifth made the score 5-0.
Monroe added two more runs in the sixth, both unearned, by the aid of two errors, Jesse Shea’s RBI single, and a passed ball on the final pitch of an intentional walk to Monasseri.
Shea went 2-for-2 with a run and RBI after entering the game in the top of the fifth .
“We make one error, two errors, and (Monroe) capitalizes,” said South Plainfield coach Don Panzarella as his freshman pitcher Katherine Villa gave up seven runs, four of which were earned, on only five hits. “We gotta cut down on our little mistakes and if we want to beat these kind of teams, we can’t make a mistake — we gotta hang with them.”
“I thought we hit the ball good today — maybe not a lot of hits, that’s the problem. We left runners on and we didn’t capitalize.”
Widener, who’s coming off offseason shoulder surgery, was superb in her five-hit shutout, as she struck out eight, walked one, and didn’t allow a runner to get past second base until the seventh inning as Camryn Schaeffer doubled to lead off the seventh inning for South Plainfield and advanced to third on an infield single.
“I just went out there, pitched how I know how to pitch, I trusted my defense and my offense — I knew they were gonna pull through, so I just had to relax and just pitch how I knew,” Widener said.
“She’s pitching really well,” Monasseri said. “She’s hitting her spots, her spins are doing well. She’s getting better every game, every practice she’s getting faster, and she’s really doing better than she has even last year, when she was hurt and she’s doing great.”