When the five-game winning streak turned to eight in a row, then 10 became 14 straight, Secaucus High School head softball coach Cherryl Bott came up with a cute and catchy nickname for the Patriots.
“We’re the party crashers,” Bott said. “We’re the ones that no one wanted us to come. We didn’t belong. We crashed their party.”
It was the case with the North Jersey Interscholastic League-Liberty Division, where the Patriots weren’t the preseason favorites, but they still managed to make some noise and battle for a divisional title.
Then, no one thought that the Patriots could win the Hudson County Tournament title, but the Patriots certainly crashed the traditional Hudson County party and defeated North Bergen to win the school’s first-ever county softball crown.
When the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs began, there was no way, no how that the Pats had a chance of winning the sectional, especially with three-time defending sectional champion Whippany Park standing in the way.
True to their name, the “Party Crashers” certainly crashed Whippany Park’s party, as Lauren Guillen’s bases-loaded walk brought home the game’s lone run and Danielle Roesing fired a five-hit shutout, striking out 11, giving the Patriots a 1-0 victory in the sectional title game, giving Secaucus its first-ever state sectional championship.
It marked only the fifth time in Hudson County history that a team won a state sectional crown, joining North Bergen in 1987, Hoboken in 2007 and High Tech in 2008 and 2009.
The “Party Crashers” could have punched their ticket to crash the party at the overall Group I state title game in Toms River, but they suffered a heartbreaking 6-5 loss in eight innings to Saddle Brook.
The loss to Saddle Brook ended the Patriots’ season to remember with a 24-7 record.
The Patriots had their chances against Saddle Brook, taking an early 3-0 lead.
Guillen had a double in the first inning and Roesing drove her home to give Secaucus a 1-0 lead. Two innings later, Guillen singled and came around to score on a double from Kendall Caruso. Ariana Simon then drove Caruso home with a sacrifice fly and the Patriots were in control, up by three runs.
In the bottom of the fifth, Roesing had one of her only poor innings of the season, surrendering five runs and giving Saddle Brook a 5-3 lead.
One might think that the upstart Patriots would fold after surrendering the lead, but that wasn’t the case.
Caruso led off the sixth inning with a single and Julia McClure followed with a two-run homer, tying the game at 5-5, sending the game to extra innings.
The Patriots had life and momentum, but couldn’t seize the moment.
Saddle Brook got a runner on by a walk and when a sacrifice bunt attempt was thrown away, the winning run scored. The “Party Crashers” had finally crashed after an astounding 14 straight victories.
“It hurts, because we were so close,” Bott said. “We were right there and we let it slip away. So I know we were all sad. We went in with the mentality, knowing we could play with them. Like every other game, we stayed loose. That one bad inning [the five-run fifth] came back to bite us. I thought we played well.”
Bott wasn’t even thinking as if the Patriots could lose.
“Seriously, after the eighth, I knew we had the meat of our order coming up and that we could score,” Bott said. “I thought we were still good. But the ball didn’t bounce our way and it was over, just like that.”
After the setback, Bott paused for a bit and realized how great of a run it was.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” Bott said. “The kids played their hearts out. I’m a little disappointed that we lost and the way it ended, but I can’t be more proud of a team. Before the season started, I thought we had potential. We just needed to add a few pieces of the puzzle and things had to fall into place. We had so many different personalities that I had to be coach, teacher, even Mom to some of them.”
Bott then reflected for a minute.
“I do look back now and say, ‘Wow,’” Bott said. “The amount of hard work they put in, not just this year, but over their careers. They can be proud of their achievements, proud of their season and the championships.”
Bott had nothing but praise for Roesing, who had gigantic shoes to follow, after her older sister, Cory, was a three-sport sensation at the school.
“Dani had such a phenomenal year,” Bott said of her senior hurler. “She worked hard all year taking pitching lessons and staying on top of her game. She’s such a great kid. There’s no way we get to where we were without Dani. She’s just so level headed and passionate and works hard. She put that all together.”
The Patriots lose five to graduation, including outfielder Guillen and first baseman Simon. But the well has not run dry.
Caruso, the third baseman, and McClure, the shortstop, are only sophomores. McClure might be the one who has to take over the pitching chores from Roesing next year. Brielle Mattiello, the right fielder, is only a freshman.
“We also have three kids who pitch on JV [junior varsity], so there is some potential,” Bott said.
But just not quite a team like the “Party Crashers.”
“All in all, I’m very happy,” Bott said. “It was a very rewarding season. I’m very proud of my girls. Yes, they were the ‘Party Crashers’ and did a pretty good job of crashing a lot of parties. They had fun doing so and that’s what it’s all about.”
And they’ll add some new banners – one for a county title and one for a state sectional crown _ to an already crowded gym wall, one that didn’t feature any county or state championships before the “Party Crashers” went to work.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.