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17

Jul, 2015

NLL Junior Girls Softball wins 2015 NJ State Tournament

Posted: Friday, July 17, 2015 8:45 pm

JOHN O’KANE, Staff Writer

PARSIPPANY —  Gillian McCarthy didn’t need much help Friday in the championship game of the New Jersey State Junior League softball tournament.

The ace pitcher twirled a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts as Northfield defended its state title with a 10-0 win against West Windsor in six innings.

Northfield advances to the East Regionals in Connecticut next week.

McCarthy gave up just two hits and didn’t allow a single run in the final three rounds of the tournament but was still quick to deflect attention to her teammates.

“It’s really cool,” said McCarthy, who didn’t even realize she had a no-hitter until being told after the game. “It’s a good feeling, but it was all a team effort. I couldn’t have done it without my team backing me up.”

McCarthy pitched Northfield to last year’s title, too, and is one of eight returning players on this season’s team.

“They’re the best group of people I’ve ever met in my life,” McCarthy said of her teammates. “We’re all like sisters. We all get along. It wouldn’t be the same without every girl on this team.”

Until the bottom of the fourth inning, it looked as though West Windsor might give Northfield its first true test of the state tournament.

But McCarthy led off the inning and ripped a line drive off West Windsor pitcher Jillian Roberts’ leg.

Roberts had to come out of the game, and Northfield capitalized by batting around in the inning.

McCarthy grounded out nine batters later to end the inning, but Northfield had scored six runs to take a 7-0 lead.

Mackenzie Brennan and Shannon Bennett each drew bases-loaded walks during the inning, and Faith Hegh broke things open with a two-run single.

“I’m so happy,” Brennan said. “We’ve worked really hard. It was a team effort. Everybody contributed. It wasn’t just one person. It’s every person on the team.”

McCarthy and Brennan each burst onto the local softball scene this season with impressive freshman seasons at Mainland Regional.

Brennan is happy she only has to face McCarthy during practice.

“She’s a great pitcher,” Brennan said. “She’s throwing really good.

“She pitched really good for Mainland this year, too. I’m glad she’s on the team.”

Brennan sparked Northfield with two hits, a walk and three runs scored. Hegh went 3 for 4, including a double, with three RBIs. Bennett walked twice and scored two runs, and Gabby Monzo had two RBIs. Lauren Toner and Megan McManus added singles.

But as impressive as Northfield’s offense was in winning its final three games by 10-0 scores, the real story at states was McCarthy.

“She’s been dominant the whole time,” Northfield coach Mike Toner said. “And when we need her most is when she’s at her best. She really steps up.

“It was a close game early, and we knew she was going to keep us in the game. To throw a no-hitter in the state championship game is really impressive, with 12 strikeouts. She was absolutely dominant and in control the whole game, and she’s been that way through the whole state tournament.”

Toner coached the 2014 team, too, and knows he has a special group of girls.

“It feels great,” Toner said. “We had a great time last year. I think this is even more special because we had so many girls back.

“The core of our group really carried us throughout the tournament, and the new girls we had really pitched in. It was a great mix, a lot of chemistry and just a lot of fun.

The East Regional is July 24-30 in New Haven, Connecticut.

Northfield reached the semifinals at regionals last season.

“It’s awesome that we could all work together and pull out this win,” McCarthy said. “We’re just all really excited to go to Connecticut again.”

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