EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - It would have been easy to roll over and quit. REALLY easy. After losing a heartbreaking game the day before to the same team in the Greater Middlesex Conference Championship game, the Lady Bears of East Brunswick High School had to turn right around and square off again against the undefeated Falcons of Monroe High School in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 tournament. Immediately in the top of the first inning, the Falcons jumped all over the Lady Bears, scoring a quick three runs to take a 3-0 lead off of ace Lauren Assennata. That level of adversity would have made most teams wilt. But this East Brunswick team had proven all year long that they were not any team, and although Monroe was 26-0 heading into this semifinal game, the Lady Bears record of 26-3 was not to be overlooked either, even if two of the previous losses came to this Monroe team. On this day, the Lady Bears would answer the call.
It started with Samantha Smalley getting a hit to start the first inning off, and then when Falcons pitcher Kelly Widener could not find the strike zone, walking the next two batters, the Lady Bears suddenly had the bases loaded with nobody out. Ashli Venokur then singled to drive in the first run, Assennata then flied out to score another, and then Tori Zaccaria ripped a pitch off within inches of a home run, but her double was enough to plate two runs, and suddenly the Lady Bears had a 4-3 lead. Megan Kelliher singled to complete the first inning scoring at 5-3.
While everybody then expected a slugfest to develop, Assennata had other plans. The Lady Bears ace settled down after the shaky first inning and pitched beautifully, only allowing a Cindy Forresta home run in the third inning, but getting key plays when they were needed by a staunch defense. When the Lady Bears loaded the bases again in the fourth, Venokur delivered the decisive blow, singling to left for two more RBIs, and a 7-4 Lady Bears lead which they would not relinquish, leaving the Falcons crushed and wondering what might have been.
The 7-4 victory gave the Lady Bears a berth in the Championship game against top seeded Hillsborough on Friday afternoon May 30 on Hillsborough's home field, with the winner advancing to the State Championships starting next week.