Hillsborough softball team makes lifelong memories during special Somerset County Summer Edition Tournament

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Hillsborough High School shortstop Josephine Marcinek fields the ground ball and throws out the runner at first base during the team's game against Montgomery High School in the semifinals of the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament on August 11. Montgomery defeated Hillsborough 3-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School right fielder Nicole Kazantis catches a fly ball during the first inning of the team's game against Montgomery High School in the semifinals of the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament on August 11. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School pitcher Courtney Wengryn wheels and deals a strike during the team's game against Montgomery High School in the semifinals of the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament on August 11. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School shortstop Josephine Marcinek fields the ground ball and throws out the runner at first base during the team's game against Montgomery High School in the semifinals of the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament on August 11. Montgomery defeated Hillsborough 3-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School right fielder Nicole Kazantis catches a fly ball during the first inning of the team's game against Montgomery High School in the semifinals of the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament on August 11. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School pitcher Courtney Wengryn wheels and deals a strike during the team's game against Montgomery High School in the semifinals of the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament on August 11. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

BRIDGEWATER – After losing out on its season because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hillsborough High School softball team got two days on the diamond together when the squad competed in the Somerset County Softball Summer Edition Tournament that was held Aug. 10-11.

The eight-team county tournament that was spearheaded by Bernards High School softball Coach Leslie O’Connor gave Hillsborough the chance to defend their county championship that they won for the ninth time in program history last year.

Two jammed packed days of softball action created memories that Hillsborough coaches and players will remember forever as they claimed a Pool A Championship and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament.

“I thought the tournament came out really nice,” said Hillsborough softball Coach Cheryl Ianone. “I didn’t come in with any expectations. I just wanted to have fun with the kids and laugh with them one last time. It was great to coach the seniors one more time. That was very special for me. The kids got to play as a group together one last time and that was goal.”

The eight teams were separated into two groups of four (Pool A & Pool B). Each team got to play three games on the first day of the tournament. The top two teams from each group advanced to the semifinals that were held on the second day of the tournament with the championship game being played after it.

Hillsborough had a terrific first day of the county tournament.

Senior right-hander Country Wengryn was stellar in the circle for the Raiders.

Wengryn and classmate Mikayla O’Neill combined for a one-hit shutout to help Hillsborough win its first contest of the tournament in a 10-0 victory over Bound Brook/North Plainfield.

Wengryn put together another one-hit shutout in Hillsborough’s next contest against the combined team of Manville, Immaculata and Rutger Prep, racking up eight strikeouts in a complete game gem for a 3-0 victory to help the Raiders clinch a spot in the semifinals

“I kind of went out there with the mentality that I was going to leave it all out there because this was it,” Wengryn said.

Hillsborough claimed the Pool A championship with a 7-2 victory over Bernards to cap a perfect first day of the tournament. O’Neill recorded seven strikeouts in her complete game performance in the circle and racked up three RBI at the plate in the victory.

Junior Sierra Skala knocked in a game-high four runs for the Raiders and smashed a two-run home run in the first inning to get Hillsborough rolling early to claim the Pool A title.

Seniors Katie Rygiel, Michelle Fratianni and Grace Bernhard all had key performances at the dish for the Raiders during the first three games.

Rygiel collected two hits, three runs scored and three RBI in the tournament opener. Fratianni and Bernhard each had an RBI hit in the second game.

“We had a fantastic first day of the tournament,” Ianone said. “It was nice to see the seniors play well out there. I got to watch some of my younger girls play and I like what I see for the future. The girls had a lot of fun playing in this tournament.”

Hillsborough squared off against Montgomery in the semifinals.

The Raiders grabbed an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Rygiel led off the inning with a triple and then came around to score off Wengryn’s fly ball that was dropped by Montgomery’s Dana Levy.

Wengryn got the ball for Hillsborough and did her part as an ace to give Hillsborough a shot at making it to the finals.

In a jam in the fourth inning with runners on second and third with two outs, Wengryn was able to get Montgomery’s Lexi Katramados to ground out to shortstop to keep Hillsborough up 1-0.

Wengryn, however, couldn’t keep the Montgomery bats down the rest of the contest.

Madison and Reese Wilson each picked up an RBI hit in the fifth inning to put Montgomery up 2-1.

Great base running by Madison Wilson helped Montgomery add another run in the seventh inning and extend its lead to 3-1.

Reese Wilson kept the Hillsborough bats quiet in the final four innings of the contest, retiring 12 in a row to end her terrific complete-game performance in the circle that saw her tally eight strikeouts.

Win or lose, Ianone was happy that her girls got a chance to play together one last time and said that was the mission from the start of it.

A 10th county championship was not in the cards for Hillsborough, but the team had no regrets as they huddled up together one last time, getting this opportunity to play together again and have fun playing the sport they all love.

It’s two days that Wengryn says she’ll always remember and is happy that herself and her six fellow senior teammates were able to get one more chance to play for Hillsborough.

“It was so great to play with these girls,” Wengryn said. “It’s really cool what they did for the seniors and giving us one last chance to play.”