Wednesday afternoon marked the start of the 2014 Morris County Tournament, which looks like one of the most wide open in recent memory.
Butler — the only undefeated team remaining in the county — earned the top seed for the first time in school history on Monday with Morris Knolls, Pequannock, Jefferson, Montville and West Morris rounding out the top six seeds, all of which earn byes into the first round.
While the top seeds will be the favorites throughout the tournament there is potential for a few teams to make runs that would defy their seeding.
Jefferson earned the fourth seed despite just ten innings from senior star Melissa Jurkiewicz in the circle as she has been battling an injury since the early part of the season. If Jurkiewicz is able to return and get back to her normal self at some point during the tournament the Falcons (who were the top seed and made it to last year’s semifinals), become a very dangerous No. 4 seed.
Seventh-seeded Roxbury has pounded the ball all year on their way to a 5-2 start. The Gaels have scored seven or more runs five times this season including a 15-6 victory over West Morris on April 3, led by seniors Frankie Formisano and Jessica Diaz who have combined for 26 hits and 21 RBI this season.
Eighth-seeded Madison has lost just two times this year, both in out-of-county games, and is an experienced group who lost just one senior from last season’s team.
Tenth-seeded Boonton hits as well as any team in the county, and boasts one of the most dynamic and game-changing players in the area in senior Anna Lee Smith who has almost 150 career hits and more than 120 career steals.
The field is so deep that Randolph, who knocked off Roxbury last Friday, is seeded 11th and defending champion Whippany Park was given the 12th seed.
First round action is scheduled for Tuesday at the home of the higher seed with the quarterfinals scheduled for April 26, also at the higher seed.
The semifinal round will be played on May 1 and the finals on May 8, both at Peterson Field in Rockaway.
Local players reach milestones
Two area stars were able to reach the 100th-hit milestone this past week as Montville’s Sam Booth and Morris Hills’ Shannon Cox both singled to reach the mark — Booth on Saturday afternoon against Morristown in the Randolph Challenge and Cox on Monday afternoon against Parsippany.
For Booth, whose hit was an infield single between shortstop and third base, it the second time she reached the 100th-hit mark after originally doing so in a game against High Point that was eventually rained out before the game became official, therefore pushing her back to 99 hits.
Booth was unable to get the hit in the Mustangs’ next five games before finally hitting the milestone against Morristown.
Cox etched her name into the Scarlet Knights’ record books Monday afternoon when she recorded career hit No. 100 on a single up the middle against Parsippany.
The hit came after Cox recorded four hits, two walks, three runs scored and three RBI in two games at the Morris Hills Tournament Saturday afternoon. It continued a stellar season for Cox, who entering play Wednesday had already knocked in 12 runs and scored eight times in just eight games.
“She is just a great player,” said Morris Hills head coach Cindy Moncalieri of her star catcher after the Morris Hills Tournament. “And even behind the plate too, she has great hands and a great arm. Teams respect her so much they don’t even try to run on her.”
Around the diamond
Lenape Valley senior Kaela Romano has given up just seven earned runs in 28 innings while striking out 31 batters. At the plate Romano is batting .440 with seven hits and six RBI, including a home run for the 6-2 Patriots … High Point senior Ally Frei is off to her usual stellar start, having given up just a single earned run in 32 and two-thirds innings. Frei has struck out 80 batters while allowing just nine hits for the 4-1 Wildcats who have only lost to defending Group III champions Indian Hills in nine innings … Senior Mackie Goodwin has led the Madison offense this season by batting .476 this season with 10 hits, four RBI, six runs scored. Of Goodwin’s 10 hits six have gone for extra bases, three doubles, two triples and a home run.