Before the Hudson County Softball Tournament began two weeks ago, rookie Secaucus head coach Cory Roesing didn’t pay much attention to the seeding process.
Roesing, the former three-sport superstar during her athletic days at Secaucus High, culminating in receiving the Hudson Reporter Female Co-Athlete of the Year in 2007 when Roesing shared the award with brilliant track star Leslie Njoku of McNair Academic, was a little sidetracked with getting her team prepared for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II state tournament.
So Roesing never focused on the Patriots’ official seeding in their home tournament, which by the way, was the sixth seed, middle of the pack.
“I don’t know,” Roesing said. “It was all intertwined with the states. I honestly couldn’t tell you our seed.”
But Roesing had a good feeling about the way the Patriots were playing of late. Disregard the Pats’ record prior to the Hudson County Tourney, which was just barely over .500.
“Right before the county tournament started, we started to play better,” Roesing said. “We started to peak at the right time. It all just fell into place.”
Senior catcher Alyssa Perez also sensed the better play.
“Going into the tournament, I thought we had a very good shot,” Perez said. “The seeding really didn’t matter. We knew we had a good shot. We always come to play and that’s exactly what we did.”
The Patriots lost to Morris County Tech in opening round of the state playoffs, so they didn’t have to worry about concentrating on two tournaments at once. Incredibly, almost shockingly, Roesing said that the loss to Morris Tech was actually a blessing.
“We were able to concentrate on one thing, which was winning the county,” Roesing said. “We thought our best chance was winning the county.”
It was certainly a county tournament that was there for the taking. There was no clear cut favorite, no dominant force. The Patriots had a shot just like everyone else, especially when Jessie Gohde started to pitch like everyone knew she could.
Gohde had a bit of a shaky start to the season, but when the games mattered and a county title became a possibility, Gohde pitched lights out.
“She was a completely different kid out there,” Roesing said of Gohde. “She has a poker face. You never know how she’s feeling. She was Danielle’s project.”
Danielle is Roesing’s younger sister, who is the team’s assistant coach, concentrating on pitching, which is what she did with the Patriots during her heyday. And just like her older sister, Danielle Roesing was also the recipient of The Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year in 2013. They are the only sisters to receive the year-end awards.
Danielle Roesing worked with Gohde and turned things around.
“Whatever they did, they did together,” the older Roesing sister said. “They clicked very well.”
And then there is Perez, who became unstoppable when the county tournament started. She was absolutely on fire.
“I didn’t want to let my team down,” Perez said. “I wanted to make my dream and their dreams come true.”
Perez had four hits and three RBI in the opening round victory over Kearny, had four hits, including a double and a triple, and five RBI in the stunning 18-1 win over No. 3 seed Union City, and had three hits, including a home run, and three RBI in the 6-1 win over Weehawken in the semifinals, punching the Patriots’ ticket to the county championship game against top-seeded Bayonne.
So that meant Perez had 11 hits and 11 RBI in the three county tourney games prior to the showdown with Bayonne. Those are just astounding numbers.
Going into the championship, Perez admittedly said that she had a bit of the jitters.
“I was very nervous,” Perez said. “Coming up to bat, I had to think like it was batting practice. Because I know that if I think too much, I screw up. So I had to stay focused and do it for my team.”
“If there was an MVP for the tournament, she would have received it,” Roesing said. “We couldn’t have done it without her. She’s been our powerhouse all season long.”
Perez was able to collect the 100th hit of her high school career in the semifinal victory over Weehawken.
“She’s a kid who puts the team above everything else,” Roesing said of Perez. “She doesn’t want to let anyone down. She goes up there and does what she does best.”
So Gohde the pitcher and Perez the catcher – the clutch battery – worked together to bring home the improbable.
And the unthinkable was sealed when Perez laced a two-out RBI double in the top of the eighth inning to bring home Hailey Mojica with the game-winning run. Secaucus had the 5-4 victory, scoring two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth to win it, a little flair for the dramatic by the Patriots.
With the come-from-behind victory, the Patriots won their second Hudson County Tournament title in their history, with the other coming in 2013 when Danielle Roesing was on the mound, leading the way as a player
Now the Roesing sisters have a county championship in their very first year of running the show – Cory as the head coach, Danielle as the assistant.
“It really was a magical moment,” Cory Roesing said. “It was very special, especially with this group of kids.”
Perez was an uncontrollable force. In the four games of the county tournament, Perez had 14 hits in 17 at-bats (an unfathomable .824 batting average) with three doubles, a triple, a home run and 13 RBI.
“I worked so hard for this,” Perez said. “The feeling is unbelievable. I’m on Cloud Nine right now. I’m really speechless. I don’t know what to say. It really is amazing.”
Perez said that it was almost fate that the Patriots won the county title at New Jersey City University’s Gerrity Field, the same spot where the Patriots were when they defeated North Bergen, 4-2, to win the school’s first-ever county crown.
“It was destiny to win there,” Perez said. “It was six years ago to the date on the very same date. That’s what made it all so special.”
Roesing said that she had a pre-game meeting with her team prior to facing the top-seeded Bees.
“I told them that Bayonne had the pressure on their shoulders as the No. 1 seed,” Roesing said. “We had nothing to lose. I told them to play loose, clean and have fun. No one could have ever predicted this in their wildest dreams. They knew that winning the county was the best way for them to leave their mark. This is something that I’ll always remember.”
So will Perez, who ended her brilliant campaign with a .506 batting average, with 42 hits, four homers and 37 RBI.
“We knew we could do it,” said Perez, who is headed to the University of New Haven in Connecticut to possibly play volleyball. “We really wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
“Our kids wanted to do something special,” Roesing said. “Well, we’re special now.”
Funny, but special is a title that Cory Roesing – and for that matter Danielle Roesing – have worn like a scarf for their entire lives. Now they can add coaching a county champion to their already burgeoning resumes.