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Livingston's Jess Peslak delivers big RBI single in bottom of the fifth inning to give Lancers the lead en route to their 5-4 victory over Mount St. Dominic in the Essex County Softball Tournament final on Saturday night at the Mike Sheppard Sr. Ivy Hill Park in Newark. The Livingston senior pitcher also did the job on the mound. (Photos Glenn Kross- www.glennkrossphotography.com)
The Mount's Ashley Kowalski is safe at home plate as Livingston's Marina Lombardi (24) goes to make tag as the Lady Lions take a first inning lead.
Livingston's Marina Lombardi watches flight of ball after connecting in final
The Mount's Gabrielle Lombardi (8) reaches home plate safely with run
Livingston's Jess Peslak earned her second straight ECT title from circle
Peslak Delivers Big RBI Hit
NEWARK -- Jess Peslak did something earlier this week that hadn't been a part of her routine since the start of the season.
The senior right-hander from Livingston, who has battled an assortment of aches and pains throughout the entire campaign, took a couple of days off from pitching.
A break in the Lancers' schedule presented the opportunity. But even though she didn't throw during the brief respite, Peslak did work a bit on her hitting during the three straight days without a game.
It turned out to be a good move. Peslak, who hasn't hit in certain games as a concession to her recent back soreness, was in the batting order in the cleanup spot for Saturday night's game against Mount St. Dominic in the final of the Essex County Tournament.
The stakes couldn't have been any higher when she came to the plate with one out and the score tied in the bottom of the fifth inning. She responded with a hard single to left field that scored Sammy Rothenberger from third base and proved to be the game-winning hit in a 5-4 victory at Mike Sheppard, Sr. Field at Ivy Hill Park.
It also marked the first time all night that top-seeded Livingston (21-3), No. 2 in the Sideline Chatter state Top 20, established a lead against Mount St. Dominic, 21-6 and ranked 11th.
``I thought we might squeeze,'' Peslak said of her pivotal at-bat, which came immediate after Mount St. Dominic reverted back to starting pitcher Olivia Gemma, who switched places with first baseman Sam Platt after the second inning. ``We've done that a lot, and it was the perfect situation for it.''
Instead, she came through with the single that propelled Livingston to its third victory of the season over Mount St. Dominic and its second straight county title. The Lancers now have five ECT championships, which is second to Caldwell's total of 10 in the 36-year history of the event.
``I was glad that I got the hit, because my team was there for me all game,'' she said. ``I was down and frustrated with the strike zone, but they made plays and had my back, even in the dugout when we were hitting.''
Mount St. Dominic lost a 9-2 game to Peslak and the Lancers on April 8. Livingston also defeated Mount St. Dominic, 8-3, on the road last Monday.
This time, Mount St. Dominic almost conquered its rival, which has now won six straight in the series, including a 2-0 win in the 2012 ECT final.
Platt led off the game with a full-count walk for Mount St. Dominic. Gabby Lombardi was then hit by a pitch. After a strikeout, Ashley Kowalski hit a single to left field that scored Platt and sent Lombardi to third. Kowalski also took second after a throw to the plate.
Peslak got the next batter to strike out, but Gemma -- who hit a crucial three-run home run in her team's 4-3 win over Cedar Grove in the semifinals on Friday night -- ripped a single to center field to score both runners and give Mount St. Dominic a 3-0 lead.
Livingston countered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Peslak had an RBI ground out to score Kylie McLaughlin, who led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a one-out single by Rothenberger. Jazzy Pignatello then hit a double to score Rothenberger.
Mount St. Dominic extended its lead in the third inning. Lombardi led off with a single and was sacrificed to second base by Liz Cowell. After a fly out to left field, Katie Johnson hit an RBI single to center field.
Livingston's first batter in the bottom of the fifth flew out to center field. Leadoff batter McLaughlin was up next, and she drew a walk. After stealing second base, McLaughlin scored when Wasilak doubled down the third-base line. Rothenberger then hit a RBI single to left field, took second on a throw to the plate and then moved to third when the ball went beyond the catcher. Peslak's hit followed.
Peslak was the flex player in Monday's victory over Mount St. Dominic, as Lancers' coach Jason Daily spared her from hitting as a concession to the back soreness. She did bat in Friday night's 12-0, five-inning semifinal win over Bloomfield, in which the Hofstra-bound standout pitched a no-hitter.
There was no question she would bat in the championship game.
``She needed that rest earlier the week,'' Daily said. ``I thought about resting her as a hitter in this game, but she just gave me a look. She didn't even have to say anything. I could tell that she wanted in.''
Peslak, who was more emotional than usual around the pitching circle as the game wore on, worked out of trouble in the top of the sixth. Ally Dabroski, the No. 9 hitter, singled with one out and moved to second on a passed ball. But with the top of the order coming to bat, Peslak got a pop to second base and second-to-first ground out to maintain the lead.
Liz Cowell led off the seventh inning with a single for Mount St. Dominic and was bunted to second by Kowalski. The next batter flew out to center field and Peslak struck out the next batter looking to end the game.
``The Mount fought and came out in this game with confidence and a feeling that the first two games didn't matter,'' Daily said. ``After Jess got that hit, it was the most emotional I had seen her in four years.''
``I'm so proud of my team,'' Mount St. Dominic coach Lorenzo Sozio said. ``We were in it until the last inning and the last out against an outstanding team. We didn't lose it. They beat us in a great game.''
Notes: Peslak allowed eight hits with six strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter. The Mount St. Dominic combination of Gemma and Platt allowed nine hits. ... Rothenberger and Alexa Altcheck both finished 2-for-3 for Livingston. McLaughlin was 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored. In her three games this year against Mount St. Dominic, McLaughlin finished 5-for-10 with six runs, two homers and five RBI. ... Gemma was 2-for-3 with a walk for Mount St. Dominic. ... Both teams have added a game to their schedule for Monday. Livingston will play Lodi Immaculate, No. 8 in the Sideline Chatter Top 20, at 4 p.m. at Ivy Hill Park. Mount St. Dominic will play host to No. 12 Morris Knolls at 4 p.m. ... Livingston is the top seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 tournament and will be home to Montclair in the first round on Tuesday. Mount St. Dominic is the second seed in North Jersey, Non-Public A. It will play the winner of the Kent Place at Union Catholic game in a home quarterfinal tentatively set for May 28.
Follow Sean Reilly on Twitter @SeanReillyHS
Essex County Softball Tournament Finals:
2013: Livingston 5 Mount St. Dominic 4
2012: Livingston 5 Mount St. Dominic 0
2011: Nutley 3 Mount St. Dominic 0
2010: Cedar Grove 2 West Essex 0
2009: Mount St. Dominic 3 Cedar Grove 1
2008: Mount St. Dominic 7 Cedar Grove 0
2007: West Essex 2 Mount St. Dominic 0
2006: Livingston 5 Bloomfield 3
2005: Caldwell 1 Montclair 0 (in 8 inn.)
2004: Caldwell 3 MKA 2
2003: Mount St. Dominic 1 Bloomfield 0 (in 11 inn.)
2002: MKA 4 Caldwell 1
2001: MKA 7 Mount St. Dominic 1
2000: Bloomfield 10 Mount St. Dominic 2
1999: Bloomfield 7 Belleville 1
1998: West Essex 1 Belleville 0
1997: West Essex 2 Nutley 1
1996: Mount St. Dominic 2 Bloomfield 1
1995: Bloomfield 2 Mount St. Dominic 1
1994: Caldwell 2 Bloomfield 1
1993: Nutley 2 Belleville 1
1992: Livingston 10 Bloomfield 4
1991: Caldwell 3 Livingston 1
1990: Caldwell 3 Livingston 1
1989: Belleville 1 Livingston 0 (in 10 inn.)
1988: Caldwell 7 Belleville 3
1987: Caldwell 3 Belleville 2
1986: Caldwell 3 Belleville 1
1985: Livingston 5 Belleville 4
1984: Cedar Grove 8 Belleville 5
1983: Belleville 3 Bloomfield 1
1982: Belleville 8 Livingston 0
1981: Caldwell 2 Columbia 1
1980: Cedar Grove 4 Belleville 0
1979: Cedar Grove 8 Columbia 1
1978: Caldwell 2 Bloomfield 1
Most ECT Softball Titles Won:
4- Cedar Grove
4- Mount St. Dominic
3- West Essex
Appearances In ECT Softball Final:
11- Mount St. Dominic
6- Cedar Grove
4- West Essex
ECT Softball Championship Game Records:
West Essex 3-1
Cedar Grove 4-2
Mount St. Dominic 4-7
Mount St. Dominic's Gabrielle Lombardi connects in at bat vs. Lancers
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