CHATHAM, NJ - In a state tournament game, you need to keep swinging the bat to make contact as much as possible, and that’s exactly what Chatham did Monday in its 3-2 win over West Morris Central in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament at Shunpike Field.
The key to the Cougars' win was the long offensive rally in the third inning, making the score 3-0 for the next three innings.
Chatham (16-8) started out strong with senior pitcher Anna Lengner striking out six batters in just the first two innings. Lengner then went on to strike out 12 batters through the duration of the game, and also had a hard ground ball get through into left field.
Lengner talks about her ability to maintain this composure during state tournament games by staying calm and focused. “I try not to get in my head even though it’s a big game. I really just try to channel that energy to take each pitch at a time,” she said.
The first run of the game came in the first inning for the Cougars, with senior Sarah McCabe hitting an RBI to center field bringing home a pinch runner for Lengner, senior Lauren Sullivan. McCabe also made the last play of the game at first base, stretching to catch the ball thrown to her by sophomore second baseman Sara Iuzzolino.
Senior catcher Kaitlin Pinaire also hit an RBI bringing in senior Jocelyn Spencer, and Iuzzolino popped a fly ball that was dropped, keeping her safe at first and driving McCabe home for another run.
The third-seeded Cougars will play host to No. 7 seed Cranford (13-5) on Thursday in the sectional quarterfinals.
“We’re gonna go out and try our best, and as long as we’re really hyped up for it, I think we can win, but we have to really be focused and ready to go,” McCabe said.
As seniors, this energy comes from their love of the game and their desire to keep playing in the tournament.
“You’ve got to relay to (the underclassmen) that this could be our last game,” Lengner said.
No. 6 seed West Morris Central put up a hard fight by pressuring the Cougars, making the score 3-2 during the last inning.
“The state tournament games are not easy to win, and I’m very proud of the resilience the girls had to get out of that 7th inning,” Chatham head coach Brian Figueiredo said. “Credit to West Morris, they never quit, and they strung together a nice inning there, but defensively, we executed when we had to."
Pitcher Anna Lengner, left, threw 12 strikeouts, and first baseman Sarah McCabe had an RBI that brought in the first run for the Cougars in the quarterfinals against West Morris Central.