CHATHAM, NJ - The ongoing "soap opera" known as the 2015 Chatham High Softball Season continued with behind-the-scene plot twists and surprise visits on Saturday.
In what has turned into an off-the-field drama, the Chatham softball team split two games in the Cougar Classic, with the money raised from concessions donated to Susan G. Komen breast cancer research.
The fourth inning of the opener, a 3-1 victory over Bernards, brought all the main characters together with injured Chatham pitcher Melissa Landry arriving at Shunpike, minutes ahead of former coach Joelle Della Volpe, who was suspended and then forced to resign before even coaching a single game.
Landry, rushed to the hospital after being struck in the face with a batted ball on Tuesday, returned with her bandaged broken nose and took a seat on the bench, much to the delight of her teammates. Soon after, Della Volpe, wearing a Chatham softball jersey and jacket arrived to smiles and waves from the players.
"I promised the players I'd come," said Della Volpe, allegedly suspended for an inappropriate comment. "I have been keeping up. I'm a little worried about the pitching situation. They lost an arm."
A relaxed Della Volpe handed out stick-on eye black to every player and approached the dugout to speak with Landry. She later visited with the team between games, taking pictures and joking with the players. She even took a team shot with her phone.
"It's so nice to see Mel (Landry) back at it," Chatham shortstop Camryn Davies said. "We love her. We miss her. And it's nice to see coach...It's just nice to see coach."
Before all the distractions, Chatham took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first against Bernards. Bonnie Kennedy led off with a single, was bunted to second by Davies and scored on a line-drive single up the middle by Isabel Chin.
In the third, the Lady Cougars increased their lead to 3-0. Kennedy beat out an infield single, stole second and scored on Davies' drive over the left fielder's head. The ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.
"Bonnie was on second and I needed a base hit, so I set my mind to that," Davies said.
Senior infielder Liz Silveira then came through with a two-out single through the infield to score Davies. That gave senior pitcher Susie Wolsch enough runs to pitch her complete-game victory. Wolsch's only blemish was a solo home run to Caroline Baratta.
"I'm not unhittable," Wolsch said. "I have confidence in the team behind me and they back me up on every single play. They make me look good. While I'm pitching, I don't let anything distract me."
In the second game, a 4-0 loss to Morris Knolls, Chatham received a gutsy pitching performance from Anya Raadam, who worked out of some tight spots with clutch pitches. She also received some sparkling defensive support, the highlight of which was a remarkable catch in center field from Chin.The senior outfielder sprinted with her back to the plate, reached over her head and snared a rising liner.
Catcher Kelly Krincek threw out a runner trying to steal and tagged out a runner trying to score on a nice throw from Davies.
"The beginning of the season has been a little hectic, but we have definitely proved how resilient we are and we're really battling through all the adversity," Chin said. "I think we came out on the other side a stronger team. We're working through a lot and we're doing really well. We're 5-1 right now and we're playing really well."
Chatham could have been 6-0 with a clutch hit here or there against Morris Knolls.
"They gave us chances and we left way too many people on base," Chatham coach Dave Shellenhamer said. "I told them we shouldn't be happy with one win today."