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It’s back to the nationals for Brookdale women

first_img BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer Ninth straight Region XIXfor Scannapieco Ninth straight Region XIX for Scannapieco’s squad BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer PHOTOS BY FARRAH MAFFAI staff Brookdale’s Leah Minnick (above), of Middletown, and Nicole Carroll (l), of Union Beach, are among the players who have helped the Jersey Blues get back to the national championships in Joliet, Ill. Bo Scannapieco pushed his Brookdale Community College women’s softball team hard during the last week of the season. Yes, winning the Garden State Athletic Conference title was important (the Blues won it for the fourth straight year and ninth in the last 10), but of more urgency to him was gaining the No. 1 seed for the Region XIX tournament. “The whole point of the season was getting the No. 1 seed,” he said. “I knew it would be important because we would have to play on our toughest rival’s home field. It made all the difference.” As Scannapieco had predicted from the very start of the season, winning a ninth straight Region championship wasn’t going to be easy. Not only was the Region getting stronger, but this year the Jersey Blues’ top rival, Gloucester, was hosting the tournament, and the Roadrunners were out for blood. They had lost the last two Region tournaments to Brookdale in Lincroft and now that they had the Blues at home, they were ready for some payback. That’s what made Brookdale’s come-from-behind walk-off 4-3 win in the Region final on May 8 against Gloucester so meaningful. “This [Region title] was the best ever,” said Scannapieco. “Everything was against us and our kids really played hard. “We’ve been very resilient all year,” he added. The Jersey Blues (40-10) needed all of their resilience for a Houdini-like escape in Gloucester (29-14). The host Roadrunners were certain that 2004 would be the year they finally upended the Brookdale team that had deprived them of the Region XIX five times since 1996. They were even more convinced when they beat Brookdale 2-0 to force a decisive winner-take-all final in the double-elimination tournament. Brookdale had beaten Gloucester the day before during the first round. When the Roadrunners scored two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 on the defending champions in the deciding game, Gloucester was more convinced than ever that it had finally shaken the Jersey Blues. It would be the Roadrunners going to the national championships. But thanks to winning the No. 1 seed, Brookdale was up last, and to the shock and dismay of the Roadrunners, the Blues struck for two runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Gloucester, 4-3. “There’s nothing like it,” said Scannapieco. “Two seconds from a loss and just like that, you win.” With one out, Nicole Carroll started the rally with a solid single. Leah Minnick, who leads the country in RBIs, lashed a double in the gap, scoring Carroll to tie the game at 3-3. It was her 78th and most important RBI of the season. With two outs, Amanda Meatto’s single scored Minnick, sending the Jersey Blues to the nationals for the ninth straight year, and the Roadrunners to another frustrating loss. “Those were three ropes we hit, not a cheap hit among them,” said Scannapieco. “Everyone hit the ball hard in the inning.” Cherise Maltais, who went 2-0 in the tournament for Brookdale and was the winner in the championship final, was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. She improved to 15-5 for the season and 3-0 against Gloucester. “I thought we played well throughout the tournament,” said Scannapieco. “Our pitching and defense were great. I knew that runs would be tough to come by on Saturday [the day of the final] because the wind was blowing in. We took the lead in the fifth inning on a squeeze because I knew runs would be tough.” Maltais was one of five Jersey Blues who were First Team All-Region and First-Team All-GSAC in 2004. Joining her on those teams are 19-game winner Elyse Papaianni, shortstop Minnick, outfielder Deidre Trujilio and third baseman Meatto. The National Junior College Athletic Association Fastpitch National Championships are tomorrow through Saturday at Joliet Community College in Illinois. The Jersey Blues, who won the national championship in 2002, will be looking for their second title in three years and have to be given a chance this spring. They played a tough schedule, as always, were pushed to the brink in winning the Region, and beat then No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Anne Arundel from Maryland in Lincroft during the regular season. Pitching and defense wins championships, and the Blues are well-stocked there. “You never know,” Scannapieco said of the upcoming national tournament. “You always have to give yourself a chance.” Scannapieco may be making the trip to the nationals for the ninth straight year and 10th overall, but it never gets tiring. The unique thing about coaching at the junior college level, he noted, is the yearly turnover. Scannapieco is taking a team with 10 freshmen making the trek to Illinois for the first time. “The best thing about coaching here is that every year is a new team. It’s all new to them,” he pointed out. “It’s that newness that recharges you.”last_img read more