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Jess Miller and the Hanover Park Hornets made things happen on the base paths in the sixth inning of Friday's 4-2 victory vs. Verona in North 2, Group 2 semifinals as Hornets now move into Tuesday's sectional final vs. Parsippany while eliminating Hillbillies. (Photo by Gene Nann - genenann.smugmug.com)

In one of the terrific moments of Friday's North 2, Group 2 semifinal, Verona standout Amber Reed makes her first plate appearance since last May as she completes recovery from December basketball injury. (Photos by Sean Reilly)

Hanover Park's Jess Miller delivers pitch vs. Verona in Friday's N2G2 semi

Verona catcher Carlee Goldstein tags out Nicole Miller who attempted to score on Jess Miller's sixth inning single during Friday's North 2, Group 2 semifinal. Standing is Amy Petrovich (55) who had scored go-ahead run as lead runner in the key sequence as Hornets were able to put together nice rally to take lead.

Hanover Park's Jess Miller locks in before delivering RBI single for 2-1 lead

Happy Hanover Park Hornets now move on to face Parsippany in N2G2 final

Hornets Amp Up Aggressiveness
In 6th Inning To Stage Key Rally
…Hanover Park Moves Into Tuesday’s N2G2 Sectional Final

By Sean Reilly
For sidelinechatter.com

EAST HANOVER -  When it came time for Hanover Park to bat in the sixth inning of its NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2 semifinal against Verona on Friday, coach Jamie Galioto knew it was time for the Hornets to amp up their aggressiveness. 

The score was tied to that point in what had been one of Hanover Park’s three lowest-scoring games of the year. 

The Hornets were also sending up their 3, 4 and 5 batters to start the frame, so the moment was ripe for a rally. 

“We didn’t have opportunities to apply pressure,” Galioto said. “And we’re built around speed and being aggressive.”

Amy Petrovich started the sixth with a single to center field, and with that, the Morris County champion was in business. 

Cleanup batter Nicole Miller beat out a bunt single, with Petrovich continuing nonstop to third after the throw to first and Miller moving straight to second base. 

Jess Miller followed with a RBI single that started a three-run inning that sent the Hornets on to a 4-2 victory over the Hillbillies. 

“We were able to apply pressure,” Galioto, whose team moved to 24-6, said.  “Once we were able to get people on base and start moving people, we were also getting hitters counts. I kept on telling them before the game that we needed to be aggressive because their pitcher (Christina Colon) does not walk people. They needed to hit the ball, make them field it and make them play defense. Finally in that inning, we got it. Every time someone got on, I sent them right away. We just kept applying pressure.” 

Jess Miller’s base hit scored Petrovich, but her sister was erased at the plate. Jess Miller did take second on the throw home, and scored when Dara DiMaiolo’s infield grounder was misplayed. 

DiMaiolo stole second, and she scored on a single by Gianna Tito for a 4-1 lead. 

Tito also delivered a RBI ground out to score Nicole Miller for a 1-0 lead in the second inning. 

“We’ve had a lot of high-scoring close games this year, but not many low-scoring ones,” Tito said. “This was a lot of fun.” 

Jess Miller was the winner for Hanover Park, allowing nine hits with three strikeouts and two intentional walks. She outdueled Colon, who allowed six hits, struck out six and walked two. 

Verona (11-14) tied the score in the fifth. Sinclaire Infusino reached on a leadoff infield single, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a base hit to center field by Melanie Naeris. 

A highlight for the Hillbillies soon followed when designated player Amber Reed singled with two out to put runners on first and second. 

Reed, a senior bound for William Paterson, would have been one of the top players in Essex County this spring if not for a ACL tear in the first basketball scrimmage back on Dec. 5. She underwent surgery on Dec. 18, and worked diligently to beat the recuperation timetable in order to play softball. 

Reed made her season debut in Friday’s game, and drew loud cheers from her teammates and the Verona fans when she came to bat in the first inning. 

Reed was retired in that at-bat, but was intentionally walked in the third once a runner advanced to second on a passed ball that made the count 2-2.

Verona started the seventh inning with a single from Infusino, and after sacrifice bunt, a RBI double from Naeris got the Hillbillies within 4-2. A ground out moved Naeris to third, at which point Galioto opted for an intentional walk to Reed, even though she represented the tying run. The next batter grounded out to end the game and send the Hornets into the sectional final on Tuesday at rival Parsippany. 

“When I saw Amber show up today, in uniform, I couldn’t believe it,” Galioto said. “I told Jess before the game that we probably weren’t going to pitch to her. If there was a base open and if the game was close, we were putting her on. I felt bad, and I know that their fans were yelling at me, but I had to do what was best for Hanover Park, and unfortunately that was not pitching to Amber. But I spoke to her after the game. She’s a great player and I told that I wished she could play for me some day.” 

Reed was elated to be back in the lineup for what turned out to be Verona’s final game of the season. 

“It meant the world,” she said. “Being with these guys since March and watching them succeed and getting a chance to be a part of that on the field instead of in the dugout and behind the scenes meant so much. I wanted to show them that I could be there with them. Hearing my teammates cheer for me before my first at-bat meant so much. They know how hard it’s been for me. Just hearing them scream like that makes it so reassuring to know I’ve got friends like them. You can’t take a team like this for granted any day of the week. It’s awesome.” 

For Hanover Park, the season will continue with Tuesday’s sectional final visit to Parsippany. It will be the fourth meeting of the season between the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-Liberty Division teams. 

Parsippany won the first meeting, 6-4 at home on April 9. Hanover Park then beat Parsippany, 21-1, in the semifinals of the Morris County Tournament on May 5. Then, in one of the strangest turnarounds anyone has seen, Parsippany beat Hanover Park, 15-1, just two days later in an outcome that denied the Hornets a chance to share the divisional title. Parsippany overcame a seven-run deficit to best Morris Tech, 21-11, in Friday’s other semifinal. 

Follow Sean Reilly on Twitter @SeanReillyHS

Coach Jamie Galioto and the Hanover Park Hornets remain alive in the North 2, Group 2 state sectional title chase. (Photos by Gene Nann)

While Verona's Angela Salisbury sees her team's tourney hopes dashed despite solid effort in competing with Hornets in closely-contested semi.

 

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