Fair Lawn Ace Fires No-Hitter in 1-0 State Playoff Upset of Hudson County Champion
Junior Marissa Spinuzzi threw a no-hitter and the 15-seed Cutters scored a run in the sixth inning to prevail, 1-0, in first-round state playoff action Wednesday against 2-seed North Bergen.
Fair Lawn’s offense managed only one run in its first-round state playoff matchup with No. 2-seed North Bergen Wednesday, highlighting what’s been the team’s season-long struggle to score runs behind ace pitcher Marissa Spinuzzi.
Fortunately for the Cutters’ hitters on this night, one run was all Spinuzzi needed.
The junior right-hander thoroughly dominated the fearsome Bruins’ lineup, striking out 13 and allowing only one ball to leave the infield en route to her second career no-hitter, as Fair Lawn upset heavily favored North Bergen, 1-0.
“It’s our biggest win of the season for sure,” Coach Sue Benjamin said afterward. “They are the Hudson County champions, 20-4 coming in, they were certainly expected to win.”
Even with Spinuzzi’s dynamic pitching performance, the game was hardly assured for the Cutters, who scratched out eight hits but didn’t plate a run until late in the game.
“It was a lot of pressure, a lot of stress for the kids,” said Benjamin, whose Cutters finally strung together a couple hits in the sixth to take the lead.
With one out in the inning, back-to-back singles by junior shortstop Ashley Sudol and junior catcher Alexis Bush put runners on the corners for Sam Colca. Colca, a sophomore second baseman, stroked a long sacrifice fly to deep left field that brought home Sudol for the game’s first and only run.
North Bergen threatened in the bottom of the inning after Spinuzzi walked the first two batters, but the unflinching competitor recovered to induce a groundball out and strike out the next two batters to escape the jam.
In the seventh and final frame, Spinuzzi didn’t let the Bruins even sniff a comeback. The stoic righty emphatically slammed the door shut on North Bergen with three consecutive strikeouts to give Fair Lawn its first state playoff victory in Benjamin’s six-year tenure as Cutters’ coach.
“It was a great win for the program,” said Fair Lawn High School athletic director Cory Robinson, who was in attendance. “Whenever a 15-seed can upset a 2-seed it takes a total team effort from the coaches and the players.”
The win also provided Spinuzzi and the Cutters a little revenge that was a long time coming. Two years ago, when the team’s current core group was only freshmen, the Bruins capitalized on a couple Cutters’ fielding miscues to edge Fair Lawn in the final inning of a first round state playoff matchup.
“We didn’t play our best and so we wanted to come back there [Wednesday] and take that back,” Benjamin said. “Kind of even the slate.”
The Cutters won’t have long to celebrate their historic upset. The team travels to Roxbury Thursday afternoon to take on the 10-seed Gaels in a second-round game.
Benjamin’s not too familiar with the Roxbury squad, but said her girls are pumped and excited to continue their surprise state playoff run.
"I think the team has started to come together over the second half of the season," she said.
With Spinuzzi on the hill again for the Cutters, anything is possible.