Jess Peslak fires in a strike in the top of the fourth inning in Livingston's 1-0 win over Wayne Valley in the North 1, Group 4 sectional finals.
Jazmine Pignatello of Livingston looks to hit a ball in the bottom of the third.
Livingston's Jazmine Pignatello attempts to beat out a throw to first as she races down the line.
Kylie McLaughlin of Livingston takes a lead of third.
Samantha Rothenberger of Livingston attempts to bunt her way on base.
Peslak-Led Lady Lancers Outduel Warren Hills 1-0 in Sectional Semi-Finals Behind 7th Inning Rally; Reilly Earns Game Winning Hit to Propel Livingston to First Sectional Finals in a Decade
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 • 6:39am
LIVINGSTON, NJ – A nail-biting pitcher’s duel is the best way to describe the NJSIAA North 1, Group 4 sectional semi-final matchup between the top seeded Livingston Lady Lancers and fourth seeded Wayne Valley that took place on Tuesday afternoon at Livingston High School.
Junior starting ace pitcher Jess Peslak kept her flawless season going by pitching a complete game shutout while giving up only one earned hit and striking out 14 batters for Livingston (27-0).
Wayne Valley (18-9) pitcher Niki Carillo was stellar as well as she struck out three while allowing five earned hits and giving up just the lone run of the ball game.
“When it gets to the states, you've got to expect every team that got this far to be good,” Livingston Head Coach Jason Daily said.
“It always going to come down to a one-run game. I thought their pitcher did a good job of working in and out. We were trying to drive the ball to the right side. The winning hit went to the right side. We just had to get it elevated a little bit,” he added.
That elevated smack came from designated hitter, senior Kaitlyn Reilly batting in the sixth spot for Livingston.
After Peslak and Sam Rothenberger singled earlier in the final inning, Reilly came up to bat with one out and runners on first and second.
On the third pitch of the at bat, she took an outside fastball and hammered hit to right center before Cate Leu, who was pinch running for Peslak, scored to end the game in dramatic fashion.
“It feels great. As a senior, it’s really emotional,” Reilly said of her game winner. “It was an outside pitch, so I just took it that way. I hit it right on the spot. I knew our runner could score because she’s fast,” she added with a smile.
While Peslak did not get any run support through the first six innings, she, quite frankly, did not need any the way she was throwing. Arguably the best player in Essex County worked four 1-2-3 innings and allowed only four base runners; one on a single, one on a hit batter and two on errors.
“I was really working my screwball inside, trying to jam them; working the outside corners as well and using the rise ball as a strikeout pitch,” Peslak commented on her performance.
The only trouble she ran into was in the top of the seventh when Wayne Valley’s Megan Golish led off and reached first when Rothenberger scooped up a ball at short and threw a low ball that could not be scooped up by first baseman Jazmine Pignatello.
She struck out the next batter before Madison Galligan ripped a single to center as Wayne Valley was threatening with two runners on and just one out.
The veteran remained composed, however, and struck out the very next batter before recording the final out of the inning herself when a weak groundball was sent her way that she calmly flipped over to Pinatello.
“She’s been just a catalyst the entire year. She’s just been outstanding and making sure she throws strikes, trusts her defense. She’s a power pitcher. When she has to…she throws the ball by people. We’re very happy with her execution,” Daily told The Alternative Press.
“In the seventh inning, I pulled everyone in. I said ‘Listen, I put pressure in practice on you every day. It’s the exact same thing that will happen here. Just make sure you’re making the right decisions and thinking ahead.’ We executed and I’m very proud of my kids.”
With the win, Livingston not only remains perfect on their season, but they will appear in the sectional finals for the first time in 10 years. Daily and his players maintain that it is hard work in their practices all season long that got them to where they are today.
They also know that being the number one seed and boasting and undefeated records means that everyone still left in the state tournament is gunning for them.
“It’s great to be undefeated, but everyone wants you. Everyone’s going to try to get you because of that one mark; trying to get you that one loss,” Daily commented.
“Our kids work hard every day. If you come to see our practice you would be impressed. They’re not walking, they’re hustling, they’re diving. Hard work pays off. That’s the secret to our success,” he concluded.
That North 1, Group 4 final will be played against tenth seeded Roxbury High School, this Friday at either 4 or 4:30 p.m. at Livingston High School. Livingston defeated Roxbury 6-0 on opening day.
Marina Lombardi of Livingston recorded the first hit of the game in the bottom half of the third, but Wayne Hills got out of the inning when Leu was thrown out at second on a steal attempt and Alex Altchek struck out.
With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Reid Singer of Livingston hit a deep fly ball that was misplayed in left field as she reached second. Carillo then got Altchek out to end the inning.