Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Indian Hills on Momentous Ride

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Indian Hills on Momentous Ride

Article excerpt

Indian Hills' Maddie Levine was in eighth grade when she watched her sister, Morgan, celebrate a state championship in Toms River three years ago.

Now, the Braves junior first-team All-Bergen right fielder is one win away from doing the same, as Indian Hills will face South champion Wall in Sunday's Group 3 final.

"That's definitely been motivating," said Maddie Levine, who is batting .412 and has 16 outfield assists. "Even Nicole [Paiotti], who was on that team, says what an amazing experience that was.

"We want to send the seniors out with something to remember from their last game. Now that we're here, we want to make this season something we can all remember. Our assistant coach [Phil Lomenzo] says this could put a stamp on the season. We want to end it on our terms."

A win Sunday would cap one of the finest seasons in program history and an incredible state tournament run. The road to Toms River didn't come easy for Indian Hills (31-3), but the Braves have earned their spot in the state final, pulling out four one-run wins, including three on walk-off hits in extra innings.

"I've never been part of a group like this," said junior shortstop Nicole Leocata, who delivered the game-winner in the 10th inning of Indian Hills' 2-1 sectional quarterfinal win over Montville and scored the lone run in the Braves' 1-0 victory over defending Group 3 champion High Point in the sectional final.

"I've never seen a group of girls wanting to win so badly and work so hard toward accomplishing something. We've had each other's backs all year and we're playing with confidence. I've never gone into a game thinking we were going to lose. We have some momentum now, and being in all these close games, that gives us an advantage.

"If it's another close one Sunday, that's OK. We've been there before."

It's Indian Hills' resiliency and never-say-die attitude that has it on the doorstep of the program's second state title in four years. The Braves will look back on their improbable two-out, three- run rally in the bottom of the seventh against Ramapo in the sectional semifinals as the turning point of the tournament, but they've shown championship fortitude in all five state wins. …

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