BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Coming off three consecutive explosive shut out victories, the Lady Highlanders found themselves trailing by four in the home half of the seventh inning in the NJSIAA Central Group 2 semifinal. They dug deep but couldn’t completely climb out Tuesday afternoon. They almost did though. GL rallied before losing 4-3 to Voorhees.
The pitching duel between Alanna Namit and Voorhees pitcher Hannah Schiavo was at a stalemate until Voorhees’ Megan Shaw smashed a triple bringing home Schiavo to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth.
With two outs in the seventh, Namit faced the top of the Viking line up. When Victoria Furka got to base on a shallow hit to centerfield, GL Coach Mike Roof wasn’t taking any chances and brought in relief pitcher Christine Pacheco to close out. However, the Vikings weren’t surrendering as their bats broke open adding three runs on four consecutive hits off Pacheco to take a 4-0 lead.
Roof's decision to relieve Namit was not an easy one. "It was extremely difficult as I and my assistants had been pondering the move for a couple innings previously before I did it in the 7th inning," said Roof. "Everybody can judge after the fact but she had gotten fatigued late in games throughout the year and I thought it was the right move at the time. Obviously it didn't work out."
Heading into the bottom of the seventh Roof told his team what any coach would say. "Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourselves, it's not over and that this kid [Schiavo] was tiring a little herself and that she struggled a little in the 6th-7th innings in their win over Robbinsville in the previous round."
Down by four, GL listened to their coach and got things started in the seventh with Alyssa Lombardi taking base on a walk. She advanced to second off what was set up as a sacrifice bunt by Aislinn O'Keefe -- but, an overthrown ball to first allowed O’Keefe to safely take base.
Pacheco scored Lombardi off a single and O’Keefe advanced to second. Jaime Belfer followed with a bunt that resulted in another overthrown Voorhees blunder to first which scored O’Keefe and advanced Pacheco to third. Nicole Trezza drove home Pachecco.
GL’s hopes were very much alive with no outs, tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first. Namit hit taking first base, however, on the play Belfer would be thrown out on third for the first out. Schiavo struck out the next two GL at bats to finish her complete game in which she struck out seven allowing three runs on six hits.
Roof gave the Vikings credit for earning the win. "They put the ball in play a little bit more than we did and fielded a little bit cleaner than us until that last inning. I have to give them credit for their performance," said Roof.
Roof is optimistic on the future and sees signs of success in the pipeline of newcomers and returning girls. "I always had an idea that this would be a two year process with this group," said Roof. "So, hopefully we get better from a physical tools standpoint and also from a mental standpoint in terms of handling certain pressurized situations better and hopefully these improvements pay more substantial dividends next year."
Roof ends the season with a positive outlook for the future of his program and thanks his two departing seniors [first baseman Karly Deland and Samantha DeMarco] for their contributions to the program.
Voorhees will face Arthur L. Johnson in the sectional finals on Thursday, June 2 at 4 p.m.