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MONTGOMERY: Cougars bats are booming in SCT win

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Kira Ferraiolo can sense something special about this year’s Montgomery High softball team.
“We have been doing a lot of team bonding and practice,” said the junior shortstop. “Today was a big game and we wanted to come out hot. We have been working together a lot. A lot of people have come up in big situations and coming through which is great for our team overall. We have a lot of people who can play different positions.”
The Cougars opened the Somerset County Tournament with a convincing 15-0 win over North Plainfield on Wednesday. Ferraiolo had three hits and drove in four runs, while Kaitlin Kocinski and Peyton Schnackenberg also had three hits each and drove in three runs apiece to pace an offense that pounded out 19 hits in three innings. Gillian O’Connor worked four innings and struck out seven to pick up the win.
“We are super pumped and excited for the rest of the week,” said Ferraiolo, who along with her teammates will face Immaculata in the SCT quarterfinals on Saturday. “We put up a tough game against (Immaculata) when we first played them. We only lost, 1-0. We’re hoping to come back with vengeance.”
The Cougars improved to 10-6 with the win on Wednesday and have won four in a row and seven of their last eight. They appear to be hitting their stride at just the right time.
“We’re excited,” Montgomery coach Ken DeGraziano said. “The girls are playing well and cheering each other on. We’re looking for a good season. Immaculata will be tough. The girls will play their best to beat them.
“A lot of girls are contributing. We have been lucky with that. With injuries we have been able to find girls that can come in and help. When you don’t have players behind other players that is when things can fall apart.”
Ferraiolo has been coming on after a slow start at the plate. She’s always been steady in the field and her offense continues to get better.
“It’s been a pretty good year,” said Ferraiolo, who is in her third year with the varsity. “I got off to a rough start but my team helped pick me up. It helps me knowing there are always good hitters behind me. It helps me with my confidence at the plate.
“It’s a lot different. I have a lot more confidence now knowing my team is behind me. And I try to give them confidence by making a play and pumping everybody up.”
DeGraziano is happy to have a steady player at short who he knows also does a great job at the plate.
“She is an excellent player, no question,” the Cougar coach said. “I have to believe she is the best shortstop in the conference. We are solid throughout the lineup and with our pitching. Gillian pitched today and Peyton is our other pitcher. They share and are both strong and back each other up with no problems.” 

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