The patience at the plate that Mount St. Dominic prides itself on simply wasn’t there the first time it faced off against Cedar Grove.
Yet it was that poise that made the difference Thursday afternoon as Mount St. Dominic, No. 5 in the NJ.com Top 20, jumped out to an early lead and held on for a wild 5-3 victory over No. 4 Cedar Grove to split the regular-season series with the Panthers.
“We all took our time and we practiced patience,” Sophia Kiseloski ’22 said. “We waited at the plate because last time we didn’t do too well. This time, we did well at the plate. We waited for our pitches and we hit the ball. It was an amazing team effort today in that we all worked together for this.”
After being stifled to just three hits and one run in a 2-1 loss to the Panthers earlier in the season, Mount St. Dominic jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first two innings and finished with seven hits. Kasey Sekula ’20 drove in Alexa Raphael ’21 in the first inning on a sacrifice fly then Alexandra Cruz ’21 ripped a double off the fence in left-center to knock in Johanna Rivera ’19 in the second.
“In my head, I knew that she was throwing inside pitches,” Cruz said. “I backed up from the plate. There weren’t many calls outside and I understood that I needed to crush an inside pitch. We understood that we needed to get a head start on the runs. Everyone had the energy for that today. Everyone on that bench wanted this one so we had to jump on it.”
As the offense clicked, junior Ali Winters ’20 was just as stellar in the circle. Through the first six innings, Winters allowed no runs and three hits, not allowing a Cedar Grove runner to move past first base.
Winters would finish just one out shy of a complete game, allowing three earned runs on six hits while striking out eight batters. Her counterpart in Cedar Grove’s Mia Faieta, who recorded her 1,000th career strikeout yesterday, allowed five earned runs on seven hits and fanned four batters.
“I was focused on hitting my spots and making sure that everything was spot on. I was just trying hard,” Winters said. “We knew we could do it. We just tried to focus in and get the win.”
With Mount St. Dominic leading 3-0 after Diana Yturbe ’22 scored from third on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, Raphael added some much-needed insurance in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Lions loaded the bases off a walk and a pair of singles courtesy of Kiseloski and Yturbe but were in danger of stranding all three runners after a force out and a strikeout at the bottom of the order.
Raphael made sure Mount St. Dominic cashed in as she found space on the left side of the infield for a two-RBI single that pushed the Lions’ lead to five.
With its back against the wall, however, Cedar Grove began its comeback attempt.
The Panthers put their first runner in scoring position when Gianna Bocchino walked with one out followed by a single by Alyssa Coletta. Winters would strike out the next batter for the second out but, after walking Faieta, Brittney Taylor put Cedar Grove on the board with a bases-clearing double that brought the tying run to the plate.
Kiseloski took over in the circle to get the final out, putting down the final batter on a three-pitch strikeout to clinch the victory.
“You have to throw yourself in there,” Kiseloski said of the pressure in that situation. “You have to get yourself to get that out and you have to be strong enough. You have to tell yourself that you’re going to get the strikeout and end the game.
“I knew I had to do it for my team. It was a big team effort today, everyone did really well.”