After a highly successful sophomore year for the Lyndhurst High School softball team, Gianna Alberti just had to think of the milestones that lied ahead.
“I couldn’t help but think of getting my 100th hit and then getting a chance to break the school record for hits,” Alberti said.
But then, disaster struck in the form of the COVID-19 coronavirus, cancelling the entire softball season of a year ago.
“I was extremely devastated,” Alberti said. “It didn’t look like I’d get a chance.”
The school record was now out of the question, but the 100th hit? Well, Alberti was going to need 44 hits in a truncated season.
“I knew what I had to do,” Alberti said. “I needed to have a good senior year.”
Collecting 44 hits in a season is a lot, even for the leadoff hitter on a very good team.
“I knew that we needed to do well in the state playoffs to play extra games,” Alberti said.
The Golden Bears did have a great run in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs, advancing all the way to last Wednesday’s sectional semifinals against Parsippany.
When the Golden Bears dropped that state playoff game to Parsippany, 6-0, it meant that the Golden Bears had one game left in the season and Alberti had one more game remaining in her fine career, albeit shortened a year by COVID.
“She just kept getting closer and closer,” Lyndhurst head coach Sara Fusco said. “It’s really not an easy thing to do.”
The Golden Bears were slated to face Harrison and Alberti’s career hit total stood at 97, meaning that she would need three hits in that final game in order to reach the impressive milestone.
“The pressure was on, 100 percent,” Fusco said.
“I was nervous, because I knew I needed three hits,” Alberti said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
During her first at-bat, Alberti lined out to left field.
“Then in my second at-bat, I got hit with a pitch,” Alberti said. “I said to myself, ‘No way, it’s not happening today.’ I just had to accept it.”
But as the game went on, the Golden Bears got another turn at bat, then another. Alberti got two hits, bringing her career mark to 99.
In her final at-bat as a high school athlete, Alberti strode to the plate with history on her mind.
“I needed to put the ball in play,” Alberti said. “I needed to get a pitch to hit.”
Alberti drove the ball right up the middle of the field into centerfield for a single and the 100th hit. In her final turn at the plate, Alberti made the most of it and attained the unthinkable milestone.
“I was so relieved,” Alberti said. “I knew I finally had done it. And I was able to do it in three years. It’s a huge accomplishment, a huge milestone.”
The milestone single capped a great final week of the season for Alberti, who had four hits and five RBI in a win over Fort Lee and another three hits and four RBI in a win over Paramus Catholic. She also had three hits and two RBI in a win over New Milford and had the three hits including the 100th in the win over Harrison.
For her efforts, Alberti has been named as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Alberti is the third Lyndhurst softball player to receive the weekly honor this spring, joining teammates Ella Todzuman and Jaylene Rivera.
Fusco said that Alberti will be missed tremendously by her teammates.
“She’s going to be a huge loss,” Fusco said. “She’s going to be super hard to replace. Her leadership on the field was tremendous. She was more like the voice on the team. People on the team would always look to her to lead the way. I think the way she got to 100 shows how good of a player she is. She gets the job done.”
Fusco said that Alberti was ready to play, even with the prospects of another season being cancelled due to COVID.
“A lot of other kids didn’t even pick up a glove, but Gianna was ready,” Fusco said. “I think a lot of people were super fortunate that we were even having a season. But Gianna was prepared, having worked very hard for the season.”
Alberti also played basketball this season, so she had very little time off from late January through June.
“She picks others up,” Fusco said of Alberti. “She’s always talking.”
There’s something that Alberti does not deny.
“I just don’t stop talking,” Alberti said. “You could ask anyone on the team.”
It’s a good thing that Alberti is talkative. That’s because she hopes to become a sportscaster one day, a lot like her idol Erin Andrews.
“I understand sports,” Alberti said. “I love to read and write and I love to talk. It’s a perfect profession for me.”
Alberti is headed to the Florida Atlantic University in the fall to study communications and media studies and journalism. She hopes to walk on to the softball team there.
“She is just an all-around good kid,” Fusco said. “She’s very funny. And she’s an outstanding softball player. I know she’s going to be missed.”
Alberti is just glad she ended her career on a high note.
“It’s really rewarding,” Alberti said. “I just wish it was done in easier fashion. But I’m glad I was finally able to do it in three years.”
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”