Haddon Heights reaches pinnacle of New Jersey scholastic softball with TOC title
NEWARK – They are a bunch of talented, humble, smart and self-proclaimed goofballs, but the Haddon Heights High School softball team will also be remembered as something else:
The best softball squad in the Garden State.
The Garnets earned the moniker and took South Jersey softball to new heights on Friday with a 2-0 victory over Watchung Hills in the Tournament of Champions final at Ivy Hill Park.
Champs!@GarnetsSoftball @HHGarnets pic.twitter.com/dtkyALwSHS
— Tom McGurk (@McGurkSports) June 11, 2022
Haddon Heights became the first-and-only TOC titlist from South Jersey, claiming the lone championship in the final year for the event.
On its way to completing the remarkable run through the postseason, the Garnets quickly became a favorite among the faithful from South Jersey, which took to social media throughout the playoffs to wish the Garnets well.
Haddon Heights head coach Michelle Schlichtig-Hastings wasn’t shy about her disdain for the TOC, but the Garnets’ run made her change her view.
“Now I am (a fan of the TOC),” she said. “From Day 1, I felt this team could accomplish it. That’s how much I believed in them.”
More: H.S. softball: Lots of buzz for Haddon Heights among young fans
More: Bordi's legend grows; Clark homers twice as Haddon Heights wins state title
Sophomore Gracie Granate remembers the coach mapping out the journey for the team in March, one that wouldn’t end until the season’s final day in Newark.
“Even in the beginning, she was talking about big-time goals for us,” Granate said. “She got us to believe in ourselves. We were saying, we can do this.”
While much of the focus centered in the circle, where freshman phenom Sophia Bordi put together one of the most dominating seasons by a pitch in New Jersey history, the Garnets were more than just a one-player team.
Granate emerged as a productive cleanup hitter for the Garnets. After Bordi collected Heights’ first hit with a double in the fourth, Granate doubled in the first run.
Junior Lydia Trailes provided a huge insurance run a frame later when she roped a double into the right-center field gap for a 2-0 lead.
While it won’t be found in the boxscore, first-year catcher Haley Hawkins had one of the biggest plays in the game. After Watchung Hills (27-2) had a single to start the game, a Bordi pitch got to the back stop, and the Warriors’ runner tried to take an extra base but was thrown out at third. The next batter singled, which would have given Watchung Hills the lead.
“It’s probably the play of the game,” Schlichtig-Hastings said. “In that spot, coming out with the energy they did, (Hawkins) made a play that took a lot of that energy away.”
Like in most of her starts this spring, one run was basically all Bordi needed in the game that took less than 70 minutes to complete.
The right-hander finished off one of the greatest postseasons of all-time in state softball history. In nine playoffs starts (62 innings), Bordi allowed just three runs on 24 hits with 135 strikeouts and six walks
On Friday, Bordi fired a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts, pushing her season total to an eye-popping 307.
It was only fitting that Bordi struck out the final batter, touching off a wild celebration that would also continue later when the Garnets arrived home.
“I definitely would have believed it,” Bordi said when asked if she thought this team could make a run at No. 1 in the state before the season.
“We’ve been fixed in our mindset all season. We come in calm and play the game really well, that positive thinking really helped us.
“I was a little nervous in the beginning because I knew a lot of people would be watching, but after the first inning, I was fine.”
If Bordi had some title-game jitters, she had everybody fooled, including her batterymate.
“She’s never nervous, I’ll never understand that,” Hawkins said.
More: H.S. softball: Haddon Heights moves to state final on wild play, Bordi's dominance
And through all the amazing numbers Bordi produced in her scholastic debut, there was only one digit that she was concerned about in the end.
“We won all three of our championship games (South Jersey Group 2, State Group 2 and TOC),” she said.
Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, The Daily Journal and Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story that needs to be told, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or email email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Haddon Heights reaches pinnacle of New Jersey scholastic softball with TOC title