A year ago at this time, Jordan Mendolla was finishing up her junior year – albeit virtually – at Snyder High School. At the same time, Julia Sanchez was still a student at her native Kearny High School.
Little did anyone know at that time that Mendolla and Sanchez would be the main reasons why Hudson Catholic would be crowned as Hudson County softball champions for the second time in the school’s history.
Mendolla fired a nifty five-hitter, striking out eight and allowing just one inconsequential run late, and Sanchez provided the power with a three-run first inning homer, leading the Hawks to a 5-1 victory over Bayonne that began on Wednesday and ended on Thursday due to a wicked wind and rainstorm that left everyone present at New Jersey City University’s Gerrity Field wondering if Dorothy, Toto and the Wicked Witch were poised to make an appearance.
Mendolla was in complete control both days, mixing up her pitches well to keep the Bees at bay. Mendolla had just defeated Bayonne, 3-1, eight days prior in a clash of the titans that gave the senior right-hander an added boost of confidence.
“I think that win gave us the upper hand,” said Mendolla, a Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree in both her freshman and sophomore years at Snyder. “I think it helped me knowing what spots I could hit. It helped me know their weaknesses a little.”
Hudson Catholic head coach Eric Lopez had a ton of faith in Mendolla.
“She was spot on,” Lopez said of Mendolla. “She had been working all her life for that moment. She gave us all she had.”
What also helped was getting three runs early. After a walk to Cheyenn Fulton and after Mendolla was hit with a pitch, Sanchez, a sophomore, stepped to the plate, just looking for a pitch off Bayonne starter Mia Bermudez that Sanchez could drive.
“I was hoping there to maybe hit a gap,” said Sanchez, a designated player.
But Sanchez hit it over the fence in right field, giving the Hawks (19-2) a lead that Mendolla was no way no how going to surrender.
“It’s unbelievable that it went out,” Sanchez said. “I’ve hit home runs before, but none like that. This is my favorite one. It’s something I’m going to remember for a very long time.”
The 3-0 lead quickly became 5-0, giving Mendolla even more confidence.
“Julia put the icing on the cake,” Mendolla said. “I think it helped us all get a little relaxed and gave us an early jump.”
The two teams played six full innings on Wednesday afternoon, but then the wicked storm blew front and center, forcing officials to suspend the game for 23 hours.
Needless to say, it was a day that weighed on Mendolla’s mind.
“I was a little nervous,” Mendolla said. “I didn’t want to stop playing.”
Lopez tried to downplay the postponement.
“I told my girls on the bus down here that we had to treat the game like it was 0-0,” Lopez said. “We had to keep them at bay. We stuck to the original schedule all day and made sure we did the same routine as always.”
When the two teams returned on Thursday, Mendolla needed only three outs to secure the school’s second county crown since 2017. One pop out and two ground outs later that took all of 13 minutes to complete and the celebration was on. Some tomfool numbskull set off fireworks behind the right field fence, then snuck away to avoid prosecution for concocting such a dangerous act.
Lopez was incredibly calm throughout, not getting caught up in the emotion of having won his first county title. Current North Bergen coach Shawn Stacevicz was the head coach of the Hawks when they won it all in 2017.
“I’m just so happy for the girls,” Lopez said. “They all worked so hard for this.”
Most of the team, like home run slugger Sanchez, return next season. Long-time buddies Mendolla and Fulton are the lone two seniors on the Hawks.
Needless to say, Mendolla is happy she made the decision to transfer. It might have been an unpopular decision at Snyder, but it was one that Mendolla felt she had to make.
“I’m happy I made the decision,” Mendolla said. “Because I’m the county champ now.”
Good point. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com