New Jersey tops Milford in Little League Softball East Region

BRISTOL - Robbinsville had earned its third consecutive New Jersey state title with shutdown pitching and a relentless hitting attack.

Aleiya O’Neal continued her ace pitching when Robbinsville defeated Connecticut champion Milford 5-0 in the Little League Softball East Region at Breen Field in Bristol on Sunday.

Robbinsville had outscored 10 opponents 85-0 in its run through district, sectional, and state play. O’Neil tossed a perfect game at Toms River in the sectional final. She tossed a no-hitter at Pequannock to win states.

O’Neil brought the shutout string to 12 when she limited Milford to four hits. She struck out nine and walked one. In Robbinsville’s 2-0 win against Delaware in the opener, O’Neil gave up four hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter.

“She was hitting her spots, getting the ball inside for strikes. She is a polished pitcher,” Milford coach Brian Corris said of the right-handed O’Neil’s ability to slow his team in its opener. “When she got ahead, she would throw pitches up and out of the zone. Our girls chased pitches they had been able to hit. As a team New Jersey is on fire.”

Alexis Lopez was the offensive catalyst for Robbinsville. She had a pair of hits and a walk out of the leadoff position. She scored a run and had two RBIs.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead in the second. Ryan Penzone singled, went to second on a passed ball, third on a groundout to Charlotte Doyle short, and scored on Maura Halpin’s fielder’s choice groundout to Emily Roos at second.

Lopez added a single before Milford’s pitcher Abby Corris got Gabriela Sabol to pop out to Roos.

In the New Jersey third, Brooke DeWitt walked with two down and stole second. Adriana Cepeda singled to left field to score DeWitt. She went to second on the play and came home on Penzone’s base hit to right.

Keira Pierini walked to put two runners on base for Jordan Grodsky, who loaded the bases with an infield single. Lopez took a 3-2 pitch into left for a two-run single and a 5-0 advantage.

Coach Corris said: “Abby was nervous going in. Her pitches were high with the adrenalin. New Jersey had good at-bats. She battled. They built a run in the second. In the third, there were a couple of plays we couldn’t make to get out of that inning.”

Corris posted a pair of strikeouts to leave the bases loaded in the top of the first. Lopez had walked and O’Neil had doubled around an infield pop out to Maddie Deldin at first.

Corris struck out seven, walked four, and allowed eight hits.

Milford got a runner to second base in only one inning, the fourth.

Cassie Rodriguez snapped a string of eight straight batters retired by O’Neil when she walked with two out. Charlotte Doyle kept the rallying going with a single to left. A strikeout ended the threat.

Cassie Rodriguez was a mainstay at the plate for Milford with two hits and a walk. Doyle and Gabby Rodriguez each had a single.

Cassie Rodriguez reached on an infield single to the right side of the infield in the bottom of the second. O’Neil left her there with a strike out, a foul pop, and a ground out to shortstop.

Gabby Rodriguez singled with two out in the fifth. Cassie Rodriguez singled with two out in the sixth.

“I told girls to relax, have fun. They are playing high-level softball against other state champions,” coach Corris said. “We’ve been through this before. We lost the first game in the state tournament and came back and won four straight games. The coaches have confidence in them. The girls will go out and play to win tomorrow.”

Roundup: Robbinsville plays Pennsylvania Monday at 7. Mifflinburg (PA) defeated Rhode Island 13-2 in its first game. Connecticut will play either Vermont or Rhode Island in an elimination game on Monday at 1...New York 12-0 and Maryland 10-0 joined New Jersey in winning first games by shutout. Pennsylvania scored a 13-2 four-inning win over Rhode Island on opening day…On day two, New York defeated Massachusetts 11-0…Robbinsville won the 2014 World Series title. It placed third in 2013. They have been to Oregon for the WS four times. Eight players have won been together on three straight region qualifying teams.

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354