Dramatic quarterfinal victory sends NJ Intensity toward title

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 25, 2022

NJ Intensity leadoff hitter Ade Lovill prepares to take a rip in 10U Spring Invitational quarterfinals.

By Rich Bevensee

New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone once famously referred to his players as savages because of their constant desire to play with aggression.

That expression came to mind watching the Jersey Intensity 10U softball team steal base after base and basically create havoc on the basepaths during its quarterfinal showdown with the CLCF Bombers Marcano team in the Jennie Finch Spring Invitational on Sunday afternoon at Diamond Nation. 

During a critical comeback inning, the Intensity sent seven batters to the plate, five reached base and three scored after a total of 11 bases had been swiped.

And because the Intensity girls remained savages on the bases, it set the stage for Jordyn Jarka to perform some late-game heroics. With runners on second and third and two out in the bottom of the fourth inning – and the game ticking toward the 75-minute time limit – Jarka laced a full-count, walk-off single between third and short to drive home the winning run in a dramatic 5-4 Intensity victory. 

“I felt a little nervous but in my mind I was thinking I’m gonna get this hit and we’re gonna win this game,” said Jarka. “I always think if you have confidence in yourself you’re always going to achieve whatever you want. I like being in that situation because at the end everyone is congratulating me and I can congratulate them, too.”

It seemed the game was destined for extra innings and the California tiebreaker when Bombers pitcher Olivia Graziano induced a pair of groundouts to start the bottom of the fourth to keep the score tied at 4-4. But then came the Intensity’s top of the order, and Ade Lovill and Gianna Burzo both earned walks and moved up on a passed ball to set the stage for Jarko. Lovill scored on Jarko’s game-winning base hit.

Gianna Burzo and Jordyn Jarka sport their unique team bling after their 5-4 victory in the 10U quarterfinals.

It was a frustrating end to the weekend for the Bombers (2-2-1), who made the nearly four-hour trip from Cranston, R.I., to open their season at the Jennie Finch event. They rebounded from an opening round 13-4 loss to the South Jersey Mystics on Saturday by going 2-0-1 in their next three contests, including a 4-1 victory over the East Coast Tsunami in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday.

Burzo, the daughter of Intensity coach Maria Burzo, earned the victory after allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. It was a performance that previewed an even better one by Burzo in the championship game.

“I was just focusing on my mechanics and if I did anything wrong, I focused on what I can improve on and what I can fix on the next pitch,” Burzo said. “I keep thinking I’m better than them, I can beat them, and if they do hit me, my defense has got my back.”

After the victory over the Bombers, Burzo explained why the rubber chicken she wore around her neck explains her team’s mentality.

“We have a saying that we have to be crispy chicken,” Burzo said. “We have to be crispy which means we have to be focused, and we named the chicken Ace because an ace is very determined.”

The game featured multiple momentum shifts which kept the volume of the fans at a fever pitch. The Intensity jumped on the scoreboard first when Ang Tessitore drove in Burzo with an RBI infield single. 

The Bombers countered with two runs in the top of the second. Ella Lamarre opened with an opposite field triple and scored on a single by Alexa Okolowitcz, who later stole home for a 2-1 lead. Burzo relied on her grit to strike out the next three batters to prevent further damage. 

The bottom of the third resembled a track meet for the Intensity and probably a jailbreak for the Bombers. Burzo reached on an error, stole second and third and scored on a Jarka RBI single. Jarka copied Burzo’s plan and scored from third on a Tessitore sacrifice fly.

Completing the hectic frame, Lexie Buschiazzo walked and stole second, third and home for a 4-2 lead for the Intensity.

“I teach them – and they know in their heart – that they need to be aggressive, and that being on first is not enough,” coach Burzo said. “We say before every game, is first enough? No. Is second enough? No. Is third enough? No. Where do you want to be? Home. And that’s what they try to do every time they reach first.”

Bombers pitcher Olivia Graziano fires away in 10U Jennie Finch Spring Invitational quarterfinals.

The Bombers, showing hard-core resolve, overcame some mental mistakes in the field in the bottom of the third inning to tie the game in the fourth. Lamarre opened with a single to left, and Okolowitcz followed with a muffed grounder to third. Aria Koenig laid down a perfect bunt to score Lamarre, and Okolowitcz came home to tie the game at 4-4 when Olivia Graziano grounded to first. 

The Intensity completed the weekend and the Jennie Finch Spring Invitational undefeated through six games. They knocked off TC Futures 10U Cole 9-4 in the championship game. Look for our story on the 10U final on DiamondNation.com.

The impressive Bombers began their weekend with that 13-4 loss to the South Jersey Mystics, but bounced back in pool play on Saturday by beating Empire State Huskies Cabello 9-0 and tying OC Bombers 10U Mitterbauer 4-4.

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