MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Chatham softball coach Brian Figueiredo spent some time in the post-game meeting with his team reeling off the names of the colleges his seniors would be attending in the fall and told them that they would be "winners in the game of life."
It was a sentimental farewell for Figueiredo, who in his first two years as the Chatham head coach guided this group to 40 wins against 17 losses.
The 2017 Cougars took the season as far as they could, dropping an 8-2 game to top-seeded Middletown North on Friday in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state semifinals.
"You have to start with giving (Middletown North) the credit," Figueiredo said. "They hit the ball all day long in big situations. That's a team that is capable of winning the whole thing. They never stopped coming at us all day. It's a credit to them."
Chatham (20-9) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Anna Lengner drew a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch, was sacrificed to third by Sarah Stubeck and scored on Sarah McCabe's single to left.
Middletown North (23-3) tied the game at 1-1 in the second despite some sparkling plays in the field by Chatham. Senior second baseman Morgan Tobin made a nice backhand grab of a ball headed up the middle and threw the runner out at first. And shorstop Camryn Davies caught a hard-hit ball at short for the third out with runners on second and third.
The Cougars gained a 2-1 edge in the third. Tobin led off with a single to center and Bonnie Kennedy bunted her to second. Davies singled to right before Morgan Pellegrin knocked in Tobin with a grounder.
Chatham held onto its 2-1 edge in the third when Morgan Pellegrin made a diving stop of a grounder up the first-base line and tagged the base with her glove to help pitcher Melissa Landry escape a bases-loaded jam.
Middletown North pushed across four runs in the fourth to build a 5-2 lead, capped by a two-out, two-run triple off the bat of Adriana Cerbo.
"We hit the ball as much as we could off her and we made the plays in the field," Morgan Pellegrin said. "They really hit the ball well. Every single person in their lineup can hit. We had to stay on our toes all game."
Chatham senior Hallie Pellegrin drives the ball to right vs. Middletown North