Mahwah slides past NV/OT and into quarterfinals

Junior Alexis Corra smacked one of two two-run doubles that Mahwah used to put itself in position to pull off a 5-4 win over NV/Old Tappan in the Bergen County Tournament's Round of 16.

DEMAREST - The first two times that Mahwah took the lead in the Bergen County Tournament's Round of 16 on Sunday, Northern Valley/Old Tappan had the answer. Mahwah scored two runs in the top of the first inning, Old Tappan got two in the bottom of the frame. Mahwah scored two in the top of the fifth, ditto for Old Tappan in the bottom of the fifth. Games between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds are supposed to be played with a razor thin margin of error like this one was and the result was determined by which team made the last mistake.

Tied heading into the top of the seventh inning, Mahwah got one free trip around the basepaths. Brenna Forgette reached on a two-base error leading off and then moved to third and home when two other balls could not be properly secured. Forgette slid home just about uncontested with the go-ahead run and Emily August worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh to finish off Mahwah's 5-4 victory. The ninth-seeded T-Birds advance to next weekend's quarterfinal round against top-seeded Ramsey, a 6-2 winner over Paramus Catholic.

"We found a way. That is the bottom line. We just had to keep battling and see it all the way through," said Mahwah head coach Craig Nielsen. "We did some good things, we did some bad things and you could say the same about Old Tappan, it was fortunate for us that we were the ones that found a way to get that last run across."

There was a lot of chess being played by the respective head coaches throughout as each tried to figure out the best time to issue the intentional walk. Neither did it in the first inning, the same inning when four runs were scored, two by each side. Old Tappan head coach Melissa Landeck decided to pitch to Julia Devine with two on and one out and the Mahwah clean-up hitter delivered a two-run double to left center that scored Forgette and Stephani Kantanas.

Mahwah took a shot at pitching to Julie Rodriguez, the UCLA-bound senior and Old Tappan's all-time hits leader, leading off the bottom of the first and the result was a patented opposite field double. Three batters later, Megan Weis cracked one over the centerfield fence to tie the game at 2.

Old Tappan senior Julie Rodriguez had two hits and reached base safely in all four of her plate appearances.

Rodriguez was intentionally walked in her next two at bats and both times, in the second and fourth innings, August got the next hitter out and left the bases loaded. Devine grounded out in her second at bat, but when she came to the plate with two on and two out in the top of the fifth, she was issued four straight balls and passed the baton to junior catcher Alexis Corra.

"The batter before me got walked and that got me pumped. I went up to bat with confidence in myself, my team had confidence in me and they supported me. I did the best I could," said Corra, whose best effort resulted in a two-run double to right field that gave the T-Birds a 4-2 lead. "I got the count to 3-1, she threw me an outside pitch and I just went with it."

With its second two-run lead of the game to work with, Mahwah had a chance to make it stick in the bottom of the fifth and were one out away from doing just that. Old Tappan had two on with two outs and August induced a ground ball that should have gotten her team back into the dugout. Instead, the true hop off the turf infield was bobbled and not only did Weis score from third, but so did pinch runner Kiera DeNicola, who took off from second on the crack of the bat and never slowed down. DeNicola got under the tag of Corra at the plate.

Julia Devine had two hits and two RBI for Mahwah, which will face top-seeded Ramsey in the quarterfinals.

Neither team scored in the sixth, but when Forgette reached on the error to lead off the seventh, the winning rally, without the benefit of hit or even a walk, was set in motion and August (7 IP, 4 R, 2 ER, 8 H, 6 K, 3 BB) slammed the door by retiring the side in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Rodriguez (7 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 8 H, 4 K, 1 BB) took the hard-luck loss in the circle for Old Tappan, but reached base safely in all four of her plate appearance with a single, a double and the two intentional walks. Cynthia Gordon, Weis, Lindsey Germano, Lana Davidoff, Sydnie Weinberger and Carolyn Goodman all had a hit apiece for the Golden Knights.

Kantanas (2-for-4, 2 R), Julia Devine (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and Corra (2-for-3, 2 RBI) all had multi-hit games for Mahwah and Isabella Devine, Forgette and Bella Orlandoni split the other three hits for the T-Birds, who earned another shot at Ramsey, its closest geographic rival and league foe that has swept the regular season series. They will meet again in the quarterfinals of this tournament and maybe even for a fourth time in the North 1, Group 2 state sectional tournament.

"We know they are good. We have played them already and we know they are a good team," said Julia Devine. "But we have a lot of confidence and we are together as a team. We are going to have to play our best and get hits at the right time and hopefully we can get a win."