Failure in softball is often just around the corner. But when you pitch dominantly, field efficiently and hit ferociously, you’ve found a formula that unequivocally produces success.
Emily DuHaime pitched a two-hitter and the Lady Dukes 2025 pounded out 13 hits en route to a 10-2 victory over the Duchess Debs Royal 07 in the 14U Jennie Finch Invitational championship game last night at Diamond Nation.
The Dukes’ defense provided the exclamation point to the five-inning, mercy rule affair when center fielder Maia D’Amico turned Kari Graziano’s hard liner into an 8-to-2 game-ending double play. Molly Saunders had tagged at third and tried to score on what appeared to be a deep-enough sac fly. But D’Amico’s throw clearly beat a sliding Saunders to the plate.
DuHaime struck out eight and walked three, chipped in offensively with a single and a double and scored two runs and was named the 14U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The freshman at Watchung Hills High picked up two victories in the tournament and was a force at the plate throughout.
“Emily got us two wins and kept coming up with big hits all tournament,” said Lady Dukes coach Juan Torres, who watched comfortably as eight of the nine batters in his lineup came up with at least one hit and seven of them scored at least one run.
In the circle, DuHaime had firmly taken the reins of a tightly played contest that saw the teams tied 2-2 through three innings. The righthander struck out the Debs’ side in order in the second and got the first two batters swinging in the third to run her strikeout streak to five straight and six out of seven straight outs. She would retire 10 in a row in all before Noelani Sokolik would interrupt it with a two-out single to right in the fourth.
“I was getting them mainly with my curveball,” said DuHaime. “It tails to the left. And they were pulling off of my changeup. I was going to my fastball mostly with lefty hitters.”
DuHaime survived a rocky start when three straight Dutchess Debs bunts to open the game led to a pair of unearned runs. Leadoff hitter Adriana Ferraro started things with a pretty bunt single. Cadie Hanaburgh dropped one down, too, but this time the catcher threw the ball wide of first. The throw back to the infield got away, too, allowing Ferraro to come all the way around to score. Hanaburgh reached third on the errors. Graziano made it three straight bunts and took the sacrifice as Hanaburgh scored for a 2-0 lead.
“I just kept thinking, ‘get the next out,’” said DuHaime, who got a strikeout and pop-up to shortstop to end what would be her toughest inning.
The Lady Dukes got a run back in the bottom of the first and tied the game with a run in the third. Gabby Florre triggered the rally in the first with a leadoff single to left field. Florre stole second and scored when Gabby Shadek slammed a two-out double off the fence in left-center field. D’Amico reached on an infield error leading off the third and raced home when Envey Duran shot a laser into the right-center field gap for an RBI double.
The Dukes broke the game open in the top of the fourth on five hits and two Duchess Debs errors that led to five runs and a 7-2 lead. The Dukes sent nine batters to the plate in the inning.
It was DuHaime, always in the middle of things this weekend, who ignited the rally with a leadoff grounds rule double to right-center field. Caileigh Mahovetz then ripped an RBI double into the left-center field gap to give the Dukes their first lead at 3-2. Charlotte Klepesch reached on an infield single, then, with two on and two out, Duran’s fly ball to left field was dropped, allowing two runs to score. Shadek singled to center to keep the rally viable before Sammie Dougherty singled home a run and Shadek charged home as the ball was mishandled in the outfield. The sudden 7-2 lead appeared larger with DuHaime weaving her magic in the circle.
The Debs got two runners aboard in the fourth after two were out as Sokolik singled to right and Kori Geiselhart drew the first walk of the game issued by either pitcher. But DuHaime struck out the next batter to end the threat.
The Dukes put the Debs in mercy rule peril with another rally in the top of the fifth that produced three runs and a 10-2 lead. DuHaime led off again and reached on a throwing error. Klepesch singled with one out and D’Amico lined a shot to center that fell in for a two-out single that loaded the bases. Duran (2-for-4, 4 RBI, run), hunting fastballs early in the count, slammed a double over the left fielder’s head that chased all three runners home.
“We really got hits from everywhere tonight,” said Torres. “It goes to show you it doesn’t matter where you bat if you produce.”
Molly Saunders drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth to get things started for the Dutchess Debs. DuHaime, however, would get a big assist from her defense to ensure the game would not last another inning.
Joleigh Kozack lifted a pop-up in no-mans-land behind first base and in foul territory. Second baseman Klepesch, however, raced over and made a daring catch near the fence for the first out. DuHaime, perhaps on fumes after the long day and in the chilling conditions, walked Ferraro before Hanaburgh reached on a throwing error to load the bases with one out.
That’s when Graziano ripped her shot to center that D’Amico corralled before unleashing a laser of a throw to the plate ahead of Saunders to end the game.
Righthander Keri Geiselhart deserved a better fate in her sturdy effort against the imposing Dukes lineup. It’s a lineup that permits very little margin for error and a few miscues did her in.
Geiselhart permitted 10 runs, only two of which were earned, over five innings. She struck out one and walked none.
The Edison, N.J.-based Lady Dukes (7-0) held a dominant 61-11 runs advantage on their tournament opponents. The Dukes had opened their spring a week earlier with another tournament championship and sit at 13-0 in the early going.
The Dukes reached the final with an impressive 9-0 victory over Sanatoga Scream. The Duchess Debs’ route to the championship game was even more entertaining. The Debs defeated Lady Dukes Futures, 7-6, after scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning for a wild semifinal victory via the International Tiebreaker. It was Graziano who delivered the game-winning run with a hard two-out single to left field.
The Debs (6-1) outscored their tournament opponents 37-22.
Jennie Finch Spring Invitational recaps
NJ Batbusters 9, Electric City Shock 0
NJ Batbusters defeated Electric City Shock, 9-0, in the 10U Jennie Finch Spring Invitational championship game. Olivia Lombardi of Batbusters was named the 10U tournament’s Most Valuable Player. NJ Batbusters (5-0) outscored their opponents 59-14. Electric City Shock (4-1-1) scored 23 runs to their opponents 23.
Newtown Rock 12U (Rios) 7, CT Impact (Pearson) 5
Newtown Rock 12U (Rios) defeated CT Impact (Pearson), 7-5, in the 12U Blue Jennie Finch Spring Invitational championship game. Ava Sweet of Newtown was named the 12U Blue tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Newtown Rock (7-0) outscored its opponents 72-8. CT Impact (6-1) held a 58-16 runs advantage on its opponents.
Lady Dukes 12U (McHale) 5, NJ Pride 12U 0
Lady Dukes 12U (McHale) defeated NJ Pride 12U, 5-0, in the 12U Red Jennie Finch Spring Invitational championship game. Leah English of the Dukes was named the 12U Red tournament’s Most Valuable Player. The Lady Dukes (7-0) outscored their opponents 44-17. NJ Pride (6-1) held a 42-12 runs advantag on its opponents.