River Dell wins for a worthy cause

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lauren Brown threw a one-hitter and did not allow an earned run for River Dell, which beat Park Ridge, 8-1, in the Pediatric Awareness Softball Tournament in New Milford.

NEW MILFORD – One of the most positive evolutions of high school sports has been the spread of the charity game concept. Just about everywhere you look on the opening weekends of the spring season there is a lineup of games in a singular location that athletics with community engagement. Where there used to be just a few, now it is hard to keep up with all of the events that donate their proceeds to one worthy cause or another.

One that has established itself recently is the Pediatric Cancer Awareness Softball Tournament hosted by the New Milford softball program and played at LaBarbera Field. The participating teams – Dumont, Hasbrouck Heights, River Dell, Park Ridge, Bergen Tech, Dwight-Englewood and Bergenfield along with New Milford – have remained constant since the event’s inception. Local businesses donated concessions awareness and much needed funds were raised and, despite on-and-off rain showers and less than spring like temperatures, this year’s slate of games went off as scheduled on Saturday.

“I love doing all of this stuff, being a part these kinds of events. We run a tournament during basketball season and we are involved in so many others. We do Coaches vs. Cancer with Park Ridge, we play in the Emerson (EDSAF) Tournament and the one to benefit Autism in Bergenfield,” said New Milford athletic director Joe Ricciardelli. “We brainstormed and decided to go with pediatric cancer because no one was doing it. There are so many great events surrounding the fight against breast cancer and we wanted to find another great cause to help and all the money we raise will go towards Eli’s Challenge to Tackle Kids Cancer.”

Angelina’s Restaurant donated the pizza, CVS donated the water and Glazed Donuts helped stock the snack bar for the day of softball that began with Dumont’s 7-5 win over Hasbrouck Heights and continued with a red hot River Dell team winning for the seventh time in its last eight games with after an 8-1 win over Park Ridge.

Senior shortstop Kelly Rubino scored the lone run for Park Ridge and also made some standout plays in the field.

“It’s a great event to be a part of. New Milford does a great job of raising money for pediatric cancer and the kids get really into it because it feels like you are playing more than just another game on a Saturday morning,” said River Dell head coach Mike Garibell. “We look forward to coming here, we did our part to help out and we won a game against a good team. Turned out to be a pretty good day.”

It was a pretty good day for quite a few Golden Hawks for sure as senior starting pitcher Lauren Brown spun a one-hitter in which she allowed just one unearned run while striking out 10 and walking just two. Bridget Cahill, Ashley Bernardo and Hailey Grupenhof were right in the middle of the two big innings in which River Dell pulled away as it scored three runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth.

“The beginning of the season was rough because we played some good competition and we didn’t play as well as we could have in those games, but as we have played more games, we are playing much better,” said Bernardo, River Dell’s first baseman, who hit RBI doubles in both the fourth and fifth innings. “The more we play together, the more we get comfortable with playing as a team, the better we have been doing and we are on a little bit of a roll right now.”

River Dell (7-4) got on the board in its first at bat as Elizabeth Sattely reached on a one-out single, stole second and scored on Cahill’s two-out single. Park Ridge starter Amanda Mulligan retired seven of the next eight hitters she faced to give her team a chance to come back and the Owls got the game tied with an unearned run in the top of the fourth.

Senior shortstop Kelly Rubino reached on an error leading off the frame and went to third on another error on a groundball hit by Dana Soulus. Chandler DeMarco’s infield single loaded the bases with no outs and Alexis Von Derlieth was hit by a pitch to allow Rubino to trot home with the tying run. Brown, in her only bit of trouble in the game, bore down to get two strikeouts and a pop up to limit the damage to the single run.

Ashley Bernardo had two doubles and two RBI for River Dell, which has now won seven of its last eight games.

“My pitches were moving the way I wanted to and I was able to get a lot of strikeouts, which helped when they had runners on base,” said Brown (7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 10 K, 2 BB), who retired 12 of the final 13 hitters she faced. “I wish I had a better day hitting the ball, but the rest of it went pretty well and I am happy for the team that we got this win.”

Brown was robbed of a hit by Rubino in the bottom of the fourth when the Park Ridge shortstop picked off a sizzling line drive, but that was just a blip in an otherwise productive inning for the Hawks. Cahill led it off with a single up the middle and scored on the first of Bernardo’s (2-for-3, 2 RBI, R) two doubles, this one smoked into the right centerfield gap. Isabella Simon was then hit by a pitch and Grupenhoff reached on an error to load the bases. The flood gates opened with Kaitlyn Wilhelm’s chopper back up the middle hit the second base bag and squirted through to allow two runs to score to make it 4-1.

In the fifth, Cahill (3-for-4, RBI, 2 R, SB) again got it started with a one-out single and scored on Bernardo’s second double in as many innings. After Simon Walked, Grupenhof (1-for-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) hit a hard line drive down the left field line. With no fence to slow the ball’s progress, Grupenhof circled the bases for a three-run homer that put the game away.

“We’ve bonded a lot. We always hang out together. It is not just on the field, but off the field, too and I think us being so close as a team has really helped us,” said Cahill, River Dell’s sophomore shortstop. “We are playing pretty well right now and we want to keep it going.”