Immaculate Heart hasn’t forgotten the sting of losing to Northern Highlands in the Bergen County tournament final last season.
All of the Blue Eagles who experienced that 6-2 defeat are back. They remember what it felt like. They want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Last year, it left a bad feeling,” coach Diana Fasano said. “So you want to leave everything out there.”
IHA has shown that through its county tournament run this season. Junior left-hander Olivia Sprofera has been dominant, and the Blue Eagles have been giving her plenty of run support.
Third-seeded Immaculate Heart, which plays No. 15 Dumont in the semifinals Saturday at Indian Hills at 2 p.m., is playing its best softball of the season. And that’s saying something considering the Blue Eagles (21-1) have played well all year.
“I think we’re all confident,” said Sprofera, who had struck out 152 batters in 106 2/3 innings with a 0.46 ERA entering Tuesday. “We just know we have to trust each other, and we’ll do good.”
Immaculate Heart won its 20th consecutive game when it defeated Mahwah, 5-0, on Tuesday.
Leadoff-hitter Reese Guevarra entered Tuesday hitting .500, and the junior centerfielder had five doubles, three triples, one home run, 10 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 31 runs scored.
Senior first baseman Emilie Cieslak was hitting .366 with six doubles, five home runs and 28 RBI.
Senior shortstop Taylor Kenerson was hitting .426 with five doubles, one triple, two home runs, 18 RBI and 19 runs scored.
But IHA’s lineup has been producing, top to bottom.
The Blue Eagles have not only been getting on base consistently, but they’ve been taking advantage of those opportunities, too.
“It’s a mental approach of hitting,” Fasano said. “I feel like we’re turning a corner here, and we’re playing good softball at the right time.”
They had outscored their opponents, 61-3, over their previous seven games going into Tuesday. In the previous seven, they outscored teams 19-4.
Combine that with Sprofera’s dominance in the circle and her teammates making big plays behind her, and the Blue Eagles are a team that’s on a roll.
“You get in a comfort zone, and then you can feel free that you’re not hanging on every pitch,” Fasano said. “When we have run support, she’s even better because we can kind of open up the zone and we can use different pitches.”
There’s never an easy game for IHA, either. Every opponent brings it best each game. But the Blue Eagles are accustomed to that by now.
They haven’t succumbed to that pressure. Instead they’ve continued to improve.
“You have to come out and you have to play good softball every single time because everybody wants to beat you,” Fasano said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the counties. It doesn’t matter if it’s your league. Every day, you’ve got to come here ready to work.”