Pequannock captures Morris crown
After smacking the two home runs that lifted her team to a Morris County softball championship, Pequannock’s Ally Thomas didn’t mince words about where the game ranked on her all-time list.
“That’s the best softball game I have ever played,” said a beaming Thomas after her team captured its fourth-straight Morris County title, 2-1 over Morris Knolls on Thursday. “It’s such an incredible feeling, I’ve played hundreds of games, so many games with these girls, and it means so much to win it with them, really an unbelievable game that I’ll never forget.”
Thomas is the team’s cleanup hitter but came into the game with only nine career high school home runs by her count and never a multi home run game. However on this day, No. 10’s bat had a bit of magic in it and thanks to another stellar performance on the mound by Dana Nielsen, Thomas’ two solo shots proved to be all the offense Pequannock would need.
“Amazing, what more can you say about Ally today,” exclaimed Nielsen. “I know this team always has my back, Knolls is a great team and I needed my best today and thankfully Ally was certainly at her best as well.”
The Golden Panthers star pitcher scattered seven hits on the day, aided by some stellar defense from Thomas and circus catches by left fielder Melissa Tahan. An error and an infield hit would help Morris Knolls manage its only run in the top of the sixth inning.
After Pequannock grabbed the lead back at 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth on Thomas’ second blast -- an absolute rocket that cleared the center field wall by a good 25 feet -- Knolls would get the tying run to third base in the top of the seventh before Nielsen would shut the door. The Bucknell-bound senior featured at least six pitches on the day and was overpowering right up until the last batter.
“My curveball and screwball were working really well, I was having a little trouble with my rise ball but I could go to the curveball and screwball when I needed a strike,” said Nielsen of her repertoire. “I’ve been in so many pressure filled situations I feel like now I’m used to it. I’m able to bear down and focus and concentrate on each pitch and how I want to execute it.”
“Each game someone has to step up and be the hero on offense, so some days you feel like it’s not all on you but for Dana she always has to be good for us and usually she is and that’s what makes her great,” said Thomas. “We know she will give us a chance to win, she will battle like you saw today, she’s a great teammate and a great player.”
Pequannock is only the second school to complete a four-peat of the Morris County title, the other being Whippany Park back in 1989-1992.
It’s the second time in three years Knolls has fallen by a score of 2-1 to Pequannock in the County championship, but there’s plenty of reason to be encouraged if you’re a Golden Eagles fan. Ashley Lesch showed why the future is bright even in defeat, the young sophomore allowed just five hits for Morris Knolls, struck out six and walked just one in a stellar performance.
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