On Wednesday 7/26, the 12u Lady Knights – Maroon (LKM) squared off against the Huntington Stealers who were atop the division in points. The Stealers already knocked off the top teams in the league and were looking to take down the LKM on their home turf at Memorial Park. The Stealers are comprised of all 2004 girls and are probably the strongest team in the conference to date.
The LKM had their ace hurler on the hill but the game got off to a rough start as they gave up 5 runs in the first two innings on a few miscues. Like two heavyweight boxers exchanging blows, trailing 5-0, the LKM responded with 3 in the 2nd and 2 in the 3rd to tie the game at 5. As pitcher Gabby Amicizia settled in, LKM grabbed the lead with 3 in the 5th on a 2 RBI line drive single in the 5 hole by Jess Sticco, followed by an RBI single by Marissa Passantino to grab an 8-5 lead.
The LKM entered the top of the 7th with an 8-6 lead, but the Stealers would not go away quietly. They scored 4 runs on 3 hits and 1 error to take a 10-8 lead going into the bottom of the 7th. With their backs against the wall, the LKM responded! Jessie Forneiro and Jess Sticco lead off the inning with hard fought walks, fouling off multiple full count pitches and forcing up the starters’ pitch count. Marissa Passantino then drew a 4 pitch walk leading to a pitching change for the Stealers. After the reliever threw her first pitch for a strike, Gianna Pizzulli jumped on the next one, lacing a 2 RBI, game tying single over the third baseman’s head. The LKM now had 2nd & 3rd with nobody out in a tie game with Grace Heim striding to the plate. Grace did not waste any time playing the hero as she smoked the 1st pitch up the middle for the walkoff 11-10 win!
Grace took home Player of the Game honors, going 2 for 3 with a walk and the game winning hit. Gianna Pizzulli also shared the honor, going 2 for 3 with a walk and the game tying 2 run single. LKM moved to 5-1 with the come from behind victory.
On Saturday 7/29, the LKM took on the Bentwood Panthers at Memorial Park in what felt like a fall morning. The Panthers are no strangers as the LKM squared off against them 6 times in the Spring NJBL season, with the LK taking 4 of 6. Not much changed in this double dip as the LKM took down the Panthers 13-4 in game 1 as Gabby Amicizia threw the complete game (7 innings), giving up 2 earned runs and striking out 9 to up her record to 3-0. Gianna Pizzulli and Grace Heim once again paced the offense as Gianna went 3 for 4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored and Grace went 3-4 with a triple, a run and 2 RBI’s. Natalia D’Onofrio, who has gained the nickname “Flash” because of her blazing speed, also had 3 hits (2 bunt singles) and a double, scoring 3 times. Daniella Popko had a strong day a the plate going 2-2 with a walk and 2 runs scored. In the 6th, Jess Sticco drove in 2 with a line drive single to left field and Marissa Passantino drove home Jess with an RBI single to put the game out of reach.
In game 2, the LKM scored 6 in the first and 6 in the 5th, beating the Panthers 16-6 in 5 innings. Chloe Montanino grabbed the win (2-0) on the mound going 3 2/3 while Marissa Passantino finished off the game going a solid 1 1/3 out of the pen. Sofia Stampfli went 2-3 with 2 runs scored out of the leadoff spot. Jess Sticco, wreaked “Havoc” on the basepaths as she reached and scored all 3 times up (2 walks and an RBI triple). Gianna Pizzulli scored all 3 times up (1 for 2, triple & walk) as did Grace Heim (2 for 3, 2b, 3rbi). Sarah Gunn had a strong game behind the dish, catching a pop up and “Gunning” down a runner at second base attempting to steal. LKM up their record to 7-1 with the double header sweep.
On Monday 7/31, the LKM would have a rematch against the Huntington Stealers on their home field (William E. Kessler Park, Melville). The Stealers were not happy after their 11-10 walkoff loss against the LKM five days earlier. However, the LKM were up to the task. In their cleanest and most focused performance of the season, the LKM took down the powerhouse Stealers 16-2 in 6 innings. The battery of Gabby Amicizia and Sarah “The Machine” Gunn was phenomenal from pitch one. Gabby changed speeds and location all game, keeping the Stealers off balance. Sarah blocked pitches in the dirt and did an amazing job framing/receiving Gabby’s perfectly placed fastballs and changeups. Gabby upped her record to 4-0, going the distance (6 innings) giving up only 4 hits, 1 walk while striking out 9 in her most masterful performance of the summer.
The offense was relentless and consistent, scoring in 5 of the 6 frames highlighted by 5 runs in the 6th to pull away for good. Sofia Stampfli set the tone with a hard struck single to right center to lead off the game (2 for 4, 2 runs). Jessie Forneiro walked 3 times and scored twice. Jess Sticco (1 for 3, BB, 2 runs) drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single and later, in her typical aggressive “Havoc” fashion, stole home when the catcher threw the ball pack to the pitcher. Marissa Passantino went 2-4 driving in 2. Grace Heim stayed white hot, going 2 for 4 with two scalded doubles and an RBI. Daniella Popko and Madison Anderson both walked 3 times and scored 3 times. Not to be confused with a “pitcher only”, Gabby Amicizia helped her own cause going 2 for 3 with 2 doubles, one of which almost left the yard! Michelle Defina walked in both her plate appearances, scoring a run.
Gabby earned Player of the Game honors. The LKM now sit at 8-1 after their 6th straight win, atop the 12u NJBL American division.