Strikeout Hunger NJ All-Stars and Del Val Teachers/Staff set single-game collection record at Alexandria AutumnFest 2021
Posted October 24, 2021
Del Val Superintendent, Daria Wasserbach
After a two-year absence, Alexandria AutumnFest came back to life this past weekend with spark, energy, and that down-home-country feeling that has been mostly absent during the past 18 months. The new venue, Delaware Valley Regional High School, was perfect. The festival provided a robust menu of food options, diverse musical performers, fun games for children, and of course, AutumnFest’s Main Street.
Sports fans also got a treat when a team made up of Del Val faculty and staff played a charity softball game against the Strikeout Hunger NJ All-Stars. Both teams were evenly matched and collected almost the same amount of hits. The game could have gone either way. But in the end, the SOHNJ All-Stars earned the victory by a score of 14-11 with a standout performance from pitcher Steve Jaynes and timely hitting late in the game.
Regardless of the score, the community was really the big winner because over 200 pounds of food and over $1,330 were collected in fan donations. According to SOHNJ Vice President Charlie White, those numbers set a collection record for a single-game event.
The All-Stars opened the game by pushing 4 runs across the plate in the top of the first. Andy Sliver, Ryan Pelt, Erin Liberto, and Jon Stirberg each scored a run and the All-Stars collected 6 hits in the inning. They followed up with another run in the top of the second when Jeff Bendix hit a one-out triple and was brought home by Bob White’s signal two batters later. This made the score 5-0 going into the bottom of the inning.
Then, the Del Val bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning when Jim Kluska led off with a monstrous triple to left field. Sean Lynch wasted no time and followed with a double to bring Kluska home and Del Val was on the board. Bret Liskowaski followed suit with a single that brought Lynch home. Marissa Geary added the final RBI of the inning with a single that scored Lynch.
Though trailing by two runs, one could sense that the momentum was starting to shift to the home team side and the Del Val defense blanked the All-Stars in the top of the third. If the Del Val bats were warming up in the bottom of the second, those same bats exploded in the third when the team scored five times. In the inning, Del Val collected 6 hits, the first of which was a home run hit deep to center field by Dan Casserly. Bill Deniz, Billy Gregson, Mike Haughey, and Paul Hitzel all hit safely in the inning, and all scored to give Del Val an 8-5 lead.
The All-Stars battled back with two runs in the fourth highlighted by Jermaine Foot’s homerun bomb over the left fielder Brett Liskowski’s head. Del Val answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth.
The top of the fifth would prove to be the pivotal inning when the All-Stars exploded for five runs. It all started when Sharon Bingert drew a walk. It was Bingert who made a stellar defensive play the previous inning tagging out Arnie Stang on a close play at the plate, preventing a run from scoring, and ending a Del Val rally. Stephanie Connolly followed Bingert with a single which put runners on first and second with Jeff Bendix stepping up to the plate.
This was really the turning point in the game. With a 3-1 count, Bendix smashed the ball into rightfield, onto the walking path over 300 feet away for a homerun. Bendix’s blast made the score 10-9. The All-Stars added another two runs in the sixth and as the game moved into the late innings, they held a 12-9 lead.
Trying to keep up, Del Val scored two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, but the All-Stars still were ahead 12-11 going into the sixth.
That’s when Jaynes turned up the heat on the Del Val hitters using pinpoint location with his pitches. And the All-Star defense settled in and was flawless. Shortstop Jeff Bendix made 4 assists in those two innings and outfielder Andy Sliver made an athletic snow-cone catch in the bottom of the sixth which put Del Val’s rally hopes on ice.
Ryan Pelt and Jon Stirberg each added solo homeruns in the top of the seventh for insurance for the All-Stars making the score 14-11 going into the bottom of the seventh.
Again, Jaynes and the All-Star defense were perfect blanking Del Val in the bottom of the seventh to hold on for the win.
In all, the All-Stars collected 20 hits and Del Val tallied 19, a testament to how close this game was. Both sides demonstrated energy, grit, and spirit. And it was the Softball Spirit that carried the day. Because of the fans from both teams, Strikeout Hunger NJ collected over 200 pounds of food in addition to over $1,333 in donations. Both totals set a record for a single-game collection amount.
According to Charlie White, the board is moving forward with the idea of providing funds to Meals on Wheels of Hunterdon County. White said that close to half of the game proceeds will be used for the Meals on Wheels Blizzard Bag program that will be organized by the Village Pantry in Milford.
After the game, players on both teams recognized the value of the event because of the robust community spirit. Del Val Superintendent, Daria Wasserbach, expressed gratitude that her school was able to sponsor the game. “It was a wonderful opportunity for our district to be part of such an incredible event” Wasserbach said.
Athletic Director and Del Val coach, Bill Deniz, said, “It was a blast, and we hope to join future AutumnFest games against the All-Stars. Our team helping the community helps set the standard for our students and our school.”
The SOHNJ board is already planning the 2022 Strikeout Hunger NJ tournament tentatively set for April 30-May 1. Tournament Director Joe Toye indicated that SOHNJ is currently developing plans to host at least a four-team tournament this coming Spring. “The interest is out there,” Toye said. “At this point, it’s just a matter of securing a location and finalizing teams.”
The game this past weekend once again demonstrated the wonderful benefits of combining friendly athletic competition with a caring, giving-community spirit. SOHNJ President Bob White said, “When athletic competition is blended with having fun and helping those less fortunate, our community becomes stronger and more aware of how we can all help.”
Congratulations to both the Del Val Faculty and Staff team and the SOHNJ All-Stars.
Send Hunger to the Bench*
*Sung to the Tune Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Fight with us to end hunger
Send Hunger to the Bench
Come to our game and do bring some food.
Helping others guarantees a good mood
Know that some tonight will go hungry
To do nothing is a shame
You can Help Us Strike Hunger Out
Bring Food to the Game