|VIDEO: Piening, Immaculate Conception complete four-peat|
Sarah Piening kept urging her Immaculate Conception softball teammates to just get one run. After four innings of frustration, the Blue Wolves broke through on offense, and Piening did the rest for the Lodi school.
Immaculate Conception topped Benedictine Academy, 3-0, to win the Non-Public B state championship for the fourth straight year. Piening fired a three-hit shutout, becoming the first New Jersey high school pitcher to be on the mound for four consecutive state title-winning teams.
Piening struck out 12 batters and walked only one. She faced threats in the first and fifth innings, but stranded a pair of runners on base in both frames.
The Blue Wolves broke up the scoreless game with three runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kayla Roberts and Piening singled to start the rally. Then Caylee English laid down a beautiful bunt for a hit, and when the throw got away, Roberts came home with the precious first run.
Immaculate Conception didn't settle for just one, however. Gabby Fredette followed with an RBI single to double the lead, and with two outs, Helyna Bissell came up with a run-scoring double to make it 3-0.
Benedictine pitcher Alyssa Vega started the game with three perfect innings. Other than the pivotal fifth inning, the Green Bees played flawless defense, but a couple of errors contributed to the decisive rally.
The South sectional winner in Non-Public B, Benedictine finished the season at 15-8. This was the Elizabeth school's first-ever trip to the softball state finals.
Immaculate Conception ends up 20-9. In addition to the fourth straight state title, this game at Kean University was the 600th career win for Blue Wolves' coach Jeff Horohonich.
For sports video highlights of this New Jersey high school girls' softball state tournament final game, click play in the box at left.