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Belleville head softball coach Chris Cantarella looks in to batter at plate as Alisson Samaniego is on third base during Wednesday afternoon's Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division action at Newark Academy. Samaniego, the Bucs' centerfielder, went 4-for-5 to fuel 9-7 win. (Photos by Sean Reilly)

Newark Academy's Rebecca Mandelbaum bats against Belleville during Wednesday's SEC action. She had single to ignite sixth-inning rally for NA.

Sales Provides The Winning Hit
As Belleville Edges Newark A
By Sean Reilly

LIVINGSTON --   Belleville coach Chris Cantarella had a simple message for Jackie Sales when he conferred with his catcher and cleanup hitter prior to her at-bat in the top of the seventh inning of Wednesday's game at Newark Academy.

The junior was about to step into the batter's box with runners on second and third and one out in the top of the seventh of a tie game. It was a prime hitting situation for Sales, who singled across a run earlier in the game. 

``He told me to just hit the ball,'' she said. ``I was hoping to drive in one run. I wasn't expecting two.''

Sales nevertheless followed with a two-run base hit to left field that scored Sam Samaniego and Sarah Guy and sent Belleville to a 9-7 victory in a Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division game.

Samaniego, the leadoff hitter in the Belleville order, began the inning with a bunt single. After a pop out to shorstop, Guy reached on a two-base infield error that sent Samaniego to third. Sales followed with the hit that improved Belleville to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the Liberty Division.

Belleville responded after Newark Academy scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to tie. The Buccaneers had been ahead the whole afternoon, after scoring five runs on five hits in the top of the first. 

``We had a lot of big two-out hits in this game,'' Cantarella said. ``This team fights. They never give up.''

Every starter had at least one hit for Belleville as part of its 15-hit attack. The leader was center fielder and sixth-batter Alisson Samaniego, who was 4-for-5. Sam Samaniego and Erika Santiago, the first two batters in the order, both finished with two hits and three runs.

``This is a big win for us,'' Cantarella said. ``Our division is so balanced that any time you win, it's a good win. It's also the kind of win that can help us get a better seed in the county tournament.''

Belleville asserted itself from the beginning. Sam Samaniego led off the game with a bunt and was safe on an error. She then took second base on a passed ball. Santiago followed with a run-scoring double to right field. The inning also included an RBI base hit from Sales, a two-run double by Alisson Samaniego and a run-scoring single by Kristen Lombardi.

Luciana Gilfone smacked an RBI double in the second to extend the lead to 6-0 before Newark Academy (2-4 overall and in divisional play) scored three times in the bottom of the second. Laura Boyman had an RBI double, Kristen Nachtman had an RBI groundout and Lauren Catena hit a hard run-scoring base hit to shortstop to get the Minutemen within three runs.

Belleville scored again in the third. The first two batters were retired, but Sam Samaniego -- already batting for the third time -- reached on a single, moved to second on a passed ball and then came home on a single by Santiago.

After that, Newark Academy began to chip away at its deficit. Chloe Cubbage singled in a run in the third and Sophie Rosenberg had an RBI base hit in the fourth to reduce the Belleville lead to 7-5.

Second batter Rebecca Mandelbaum led off the sixth with a single for Newark Academy and Rosenberg followed with a base on balls. Courtney Luing then hit a single to left that scored the first run of the inning. Gabby Giachin bunted the runners into scoring position, and with the infield playing in, the next batter popped out to shortstop.

With Cubbage at the plate, a wild pitch scored Rosenberg with the tying the run. Newark Academy tried to send in the trail runner on the same play, but she was erased on the throw from catcher Sales to covering pitcher Jenna Lombardi. Newark Academy looked for an interference call after the second runner collided with a Belleville infielder near third base, but the umpires did not agree.

Like Belleville, every starter for Newark Academy also had at least one hit. The leader was Catena, who went 3-for-5 atop the order.

``We've lost two games by one run and two by two runs,'' Newark Academy coach Sergio Rodriguez said. "If there was one play that we could have made in each of those games, we could have won all four. But the good thing about this sport is that it's a marathon. We get to play everyone in the conference twice, and as long as we get better for the county tournament in two weeks and the state tournament in a month, we'll be alright." 

Follow Sean Reilly on Twitter @SeanReillyHS

Belleville head softball coach Chris Cantarella confers with, from left, Sam Samaniego, Sarah Guy and batter Jackie Sales right before Sales drove in go-ahead runs in top of seventh inning during 9-7 Bucs' win.


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