IHA is on a mission and on its way to county final

Jocelyn Moody spun a 1-hitter as top-seeded IHA topped Indian Hills, 7-2, in the semifinals of the Bergen County Tournament.

WOOD-RIDGE – Immaculate Heart Academy has long been the gold standard in terms of softball in Bergen County. The Blue Eagles have been consistently successful and have had their fair share of statewide success, but the Bergen County Tournament has been a painful thorn in their side. They have collected just one BCT title in the past nine years and have been upset as the top seed in each of the past two county tournaments.

While the disappointment of those losses is painful, it has molded this year’s team into one that is on a very clear mission…Do whatever it takes and leave no doubt who the best team in Bergen County is.

Facing an Indian Hills team that the Blue Eagles have had quite a history with over the past decade, it was imperative to jump out early and set the pace. Tali LoCurto stroked a two-run double in the second inning and added an RBI single in the third to help top-seeded IHA jumped out to an early five-run lead.

Pitcher Jocelyn Moody did the rest to lift the Blue Eagles into the Bergen County Tournament final with a 7-2 semifinal win over No. 4 seed Indian Hills on a sweltering Saturday afternoon at the Wood-Ridge Athletic Complex.

“We faced a similar type of day today playing a very good team with the heat like we did last year when we lost to Ramapo in the semifinals,” said IHA head coach Diana Fasano. “I think the loss we had this week humbled us. As the season goes along, we must focus on doing the right things all the time. It’s championship season time and these are the type of games this team lives for.”

Natalie Christopher scored one of Indian Hills' two runs.

Having just suffered its first loss of the season earlier in the week in extra innings against St. Thomas Aquinas, IHA came out with an aggressive approach at the plate, and it did not take long to pay dividends. Freshman sensation Gabby Shadek led off with a single followed by a double from Moody. LoCurto made it three straight hits with her line-drive single driving in both runs. Then in the third inning with a run already in, LoCurto’s base knock brought home another run. Before the Braves knew what hit them, IHA held a commanding 5-0 lead.

“We want to hit the ball hard and keep the ball in play as often as we can,” said Shadek. “We wanted to start strong and swing aggressively to score some runs early.”

The lead grew to 7-0 on a triple to right field by Sofia Valente in the fifth inning. That was more than enough run support for Moody, who had it all working early. The senior was able to get ahead in the count, mix speeds, and move the ball around the zone to record out after out. She held Indian Hills without a hit until the sixth when the Braves tried to mount a late rally.

Natalie Christopher reached on an error to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Mikayla Amoruso broke up the no-hit bid with a double to left to bring home Christopher and get Indian Hills (22-7) on the scoreboard. Alayna Hoffman had an RBI groundout later in the inning to plate Gia White and trim the lead to 7-2. Moody was unfazed and showed the poise of an experienced senior by closing out the game without giving up another hit.

Gabby Shadek and IHA will play Ramapo in the county final next Saturday.

Moody was brilliant, giving up just the one hit with four walks and five strikeouts for IHA (24-1). LoCurto tied a season-high with three RBIs and Shadek reached base in all three of her plate appearances.

The seeds held true throughout the Bergen County Tournament as IHA will meet second-seeded and defending champion Ramapo, who pulled off a miraculous comeback victory in the semifinals over Northern Valley/Old Tappan, with Bergen County supremacy on the line. Ramapo upset IHA in the BCT semifinals last year before IHA exacted a measure of revenge with a 5-0 win back in April. With a county title at stake and a chance to break a six-year drought without one, the 2022 Blue Eagles are excited for the opportunity to be the team to snap the skid.

“Last year it was a really tough loss in the semis against Ramapo,” added Moody. “They jumped on us early and our energy was down, we didn’t want that happen again. This year we’re really focusing on keeping our energy up the entire game and picking each other up. Losses have always motivated us to be better and we’ll be ready for next weekend.”