Saturday, April 8, 2017
By Cory K. Doviak
NJS.com Editorial Director
Olivia Sprofera pitched two innings in relief to pick up the win, but it was her three-run triple in the bottom of the sixth that broke open IHA's 9-4 win over Indian Hills on Friday afternoon.
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – Olivia Sprofera is well established as one of the best pitchers in the state of New Jersey. The senior left-hander, who will play at Providence College next year, was the winning pitcher in last season’s Bergen County Tournament final and in the Non-Public A state final that sealed the Blue Eagles’ status as the state’s No. 1 team.
Sprofera the hitter? There was less of a track record. Sure, she had a perfect batting average in her career, but that consisted of a double she hit in her lone high school at bat that came back in her sophomore season. Now, she is a perfect 2-for-2 after a decisive at bat in Immaculate Heart Academy’s 9-4 win over Indian Hills on a blustery Friday afternoon.
Sprofera was brought on in relief of freshman Ryleigh White, who was making her first varsity start, to try to hold a one-run lead in the top of the sixth inning. Having Sprofera at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the inning with a chance to break it open was not a part of the original plan.
“We are trying to figure out this new group of kids, we are kind of playing around a little bit and I wanted to give Ryleigh the experience, start building it now so we are good for the long term. It was nice to get five innings out of [White] and then have Olivia to come in,” said IHA head coach Diana Fasano. “I didn’t know at the time I made the change the pitcher’s spot would come back up in the lineup with the bases loaded and two outs.”
But it did and Sprofera, a left-handed hitter, smacked a three-run triple to the opposite field that decided the game between the two teams that played in last year’s Bergen County championship game.
Indian Hills' Meg Halloran heading home after her two-run homer in the top of the third inning.
It is not like this game could be called a rematch of last year’s county final because there are lots of new names in the respective starting lineups, but it could have been a preview of this year’s title game as both programs reload for another run. What is never expected when they meet up is a slugfest, but that is exactly what Friday’s game was.
IHA struck first with Caroline Ventor driving in the game’s first run with a bases loaded, RBI single in the bottom of the second before Reese Guevarra (1-for-2, 2 RBI, R, BB), the All-State senior centerfielder, following with a two-run single into shallow centerfield that gave the Blue Eagles a 3-0 lead. Indian Hills got right back into it in the top of the third when Meg Halloran launched a two-out, two-run home run to straight away centerfield and then took the lead in the top of the fifth.
Kelly Hoover took one for the team to start the rally, Julia Bledzow singled with one out and Angela Saric drew a two-out walk to load the bases. Sarah Stocker drew another walk to tie the game and Caitlyn Logatto singled to give the Braves a 4-3 lead, but it could have been more as White came back from behind in the count to get a strikeout and leave the bases loaded.
“We struck out too many times for a team that has experience. You can’t strike out nine times in a big game,” said Indian Hills head coach Joe Leicht. “We hit in a little bit of hard luck as some of the balls that we hit hard were caught, but the key point of the game was when we got ahead 4-3 and the bases were loaded. We swung at a 3-2 pitch that was over our head. If the lead goes to 5-3 and we keep the line moving, who know what happens with those next at bats.”
Sonia Sharma two hits, 2 RBI and scored a run for IHA, which is now 2-0.
Instead, the next at bat belonged to IHA’s Ally Dudek (2-for-3, 3 R) and she led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple down the right field line. Sonia Sharma got the game tied with her RBI single and Cat Thomas (3-for-4, RBI, R) singled to drive in Sharma with what turned into the game-winning run before the Eagles added the four insurance runs in the sixth. Sprofera’s triple drove in the first three and Sharma (2-for-4, 2 RBI, R) hit another triple to knock in courtesy runner Emily Gyongyosi with the game’s final run.
Dudek, Sharma, Thomas and Ventor (2-for-3, RBI) all had multi-hit games for IHA, while Guevarra stole at least two base hits with sparkling defensive plays in centerfield. Sprofera (2 IP, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 K, BB) got the win in relief of White, who struck out seven in her first start for the Eagles, who improved to 2-0.
Halloran (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R) and Logatto (2-for-4, RBI) had multi-hit games for Indian Hills, which fell to 1-1 with the loss, but is looking forward to brighter days ahead, literally.
“We have to get in a rhythm of playing games. Here we are like two weeks into the season and we had played one game coming into today. Softball is a game where you have to keep playing to start to improve. We are supposed to play 13 games in the next 16 days and that is good,” said Leicht. “Just like everybody else, we just need to play some games and then maybe our talents with come to the fore a little bit.”