June 8, 2016
By Matt Cohen
NJS.com Special to NJS.com
Demarest seniors will take their careers right down to the final possible day. The Norsewomen beat Parsippany, 10-4, in the Group 2 state semifinals on Tuesday.
LITTLE FALLS - During its stunning four-game losing streak entering the state softball tournament the Northern Valley/Demarest softball team tried just about everything in order to turn its fortunes around.
“I think when we struggled we were all down. We even did some team voodoo stuff,” senior center fielder Victoria Corcoran said with a laugh.” We did team bonding and we worked on our team chemistry. We're a team full of seniors and this is not how we wanted to end (our careers). We want to finish strong.”
Whether you want to thank mystical powers, improved chemistry, a revived offense, or anything else for that matter, it’s clear that the Norsewomen have rediscovered the form that made them one of the state’s best teams.
Less than three weeks removed from that losing streak, Demarest will now play for its first state title since 1979 as it used a six-run bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Parsippany, 10-4, in the Group 2 semifinals at Montclair State University.
“We battled through and that’s kind of the way the season has been for us. We’ve battled through adversity,” Demarest coach Keith Johnson said. “That’s one of the good things of having a couple of losses in the middle is to battle through those tough times and know that you can still get through them. That’s exactly what we did in this game.”
A three-run top of the fifth inning capped off by Alivia Mercuro’s two-run double gave Parsippany a 4-3 advantage. But like it has throughout this tournament, Demarest (26-5) seemed unfazed by such adversity.
In the bottom of the inning Victoria Corcoran smoked a double off the left field fence, but Parsippany’s lead remained in tact on the play as Samantha Maniscalco was thrown out at the plate. Veronica Corcoran was retired on a running catch by leftfielder Claudia Bennett, but when Bennett crashed to the turf after making the play, Victoria took full advantage, scoring all the way from second to even the score up at 4-apiece.
“We’re always positive in the dugout no matter what,” said sophomore pitcher Makenzie McGrath. “I think the positivity in the dugout, having the girls cheer you on, it just helps you do better.”
McGrath led off the sixth inning offensive explosion with a single. Michelle Diehl sacrificed courtesy runner Meadow Garcia to second and Haley Pontillo walked. Designated player Claudia Mattes then put the Norsewomen in front for good with a soft liner over the shortstop’s head.
“I had grounded out in my previous two at-bats and I wasn't sure if I could do it, but my teammates helped me get my confidence back,” said Mattes. “It helped so much because when I went up to the plate I was thinking hit. I'm going to hit this ball.”
From there, Pam Ng walked and Maniscalo’s groundout plated Mattes. Victoria Corcoran walked to load the bases for twin sister Veronica whose two-run single up the middle broke the game wide open. Ellen Hamlin’s fly ball was misplayed in right field, allowing two more Demarest runs to score.
“I don't want to jinx anything, but I think the offense is back,” said Victoria Corcoran, who finished 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs and a RBI. “We're all getting hits on the ball. They're good cuts, they're good swings. I think we're right there, we're getting back on board right when we need to bring it home.”
The offensive explosion gave McGrath more than enough support to punch the Norsewomen’s ticket to the state final against A.L. Johnson this weekend at Kean. McGrath, a sophomore, set the down powerful Red Hawks lineup 1-2-3 in the seventh. Overall, she struck out 10 in the victory and retired seven of the final eight batters she faced after Mercuro’s double. McGrath allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks.
Veronica Corcoran was 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run, Ng had two runs and a RBI and McGrath was 2-for-4 in the victory. Ng and Victoria Corcoran each had RBI singles as part of a second inning which gave Demarest a 3-0 lead.
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