Brookdale extends Region dominance to 11 straight

Covell shines, as Blues beat Gloucester

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Some day, Brookdale’s Region XIX softball reign will come to an end, but as coach Bo Scannapieco said, “It’s not going to be this year.”

That’s because the Jersey Blues won their 11th straight title Sunday in Middlesex with an 8-2 win over Gloucester.

“This was the most challenging one,” said Scannapieco, whose team will head to the national championships next week to defend their national title.

Brookdale appeared to be more vulnerable than in previous years, heading into last weekend’s tournament. The other contenders had won games against them during the season and the Blues had played inconsistently at times. But it was business as usual over the weekend. The contenders were again pretenders.

“We played well at the end of the season,” noted Scannapieco. “Our intensity picked up and we played with a sense of urgency.”

Nobody wanted to be the Brookdale squad on whose watch the streak ended, and so the Blues did as all champions do – they raised their level of play.

Before opening the tournament against Gloucester, Scannapieco looked to gain an early psychological edge. Knowing the teams like Gloucester and Sussex believed they could beat Brookdale this year, he told his players to send everyone a message in the first game, to win it big and start to sow some seeds of doubt into the contenders. The message was delivered loud and clear, an 8-1 win over Gloucester with pitcher Erin Covell going the distance, striking out six and walking no one.

Kara Hertzke’s RBI sacrifice fly broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth and a second run scored on an error. That gave Covell breathing room, leading 3-1.

A five-run sixth put the game away. Lynn Olender was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, Suzanne Gorczynski was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, and Hertzke was 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs, as Brookdale let the field know that it was tournament time.

Scannapieco opted to go with Covell on Saturday in the first game, and she responded with a brilliant 1-0 shutout of Sussex. The only run of the game was scored in the first on Allyson Weinkofsky’s RBI double. Covell allowed just five hits and struck out five.

“She (Covell) pitched a beautiful game,” said Scannapieco.

Covell got defensive help from centerfielder Olender, who threw a strike to the plate to nail a Sussex runner attempting to score on a base hit.

“It was a dangerous play, but she threw a strike to Jess (Sepe),” recalled Scannapieco.

Gloucester would fight its way back through the loser’s bracket to get a second shot at Brookdale and made the most of it, forcing the if-necessary game in the double-elimination format by beating the Blues, 3-2. Defensive miscues led to two unearned runs, paving the way for the Gloucester win and a final game on Sunday.

“We did not hit well all day,” said Scannapieco. “I put a positive spin on the day telling them we scored three runs in two games and split with two quality teams. That’s not bad.”

Scannapieco sensed that his club wasn’t in need of a pick-me-up. He could tell that his team wasn’t down after the loss; it was mad and took it out on Gloucester Sunday.

“We had our hitting shoes on,” he said.

The bottom of the order, Mandy Kapsales, Lauren Ceravolo and Liz Anastasio, did most of the damage, as they drove in four runs and scored four times in the 8-2 romp. The top of the order was productive as well, with Olender driving in a pair of runs.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Erin Covell picked up her third win of the tournament, again going the distance.

Covell was at one time 4-4 on the season, but improved to 14-4 with her trio of wins.

“She’s the best pitcher in the Region,” said Scannapieco. “She struggled early and had some tough losses. That bothered her. I told her it’s not too late to figure it out, and she got her mind set. Her velocity is there and all of her pitches are working.”

A four-starter rotation that Scannapieco used this season allowed him to keep all of his starters fresh, and it paid off last weekend for sure.

The Jersey Blues improved to 36-13 for the season and leave on Tuesday for the nationals (May 18-20). Scannapieco won’t know until the middle of the week where the Blues are in the seedings, but who they play isn’t as important as how they play.

“You always go in expecting you will play well,” said Scannapieco.

After what Scannapieco saw this weekend in Middlesex, he has every reason to believe is team will continue to play well.