COLTS NECK, N.J. - Malori Bell has been nothing short of sensational this spring for the Middletown North softball team.
The senior put together another gem on Tuesday against Colts Neck, racking up 10 strikeouts and giving up only one hit in a complete-game shutout to lead Middletown North to a 3-0 victory.
“It’s a team effort,” Bell said. “My defense did a great job behind me. I don’t think I pitched the best I could, but my teammates had my back in the field. When I needed to buckle down and step up for my team, I was able to get the out I needed.”
It was a straight out pitchers duel as Colts Neck’s starter Ava Metzger stood toe to toe with Bell through the first four innings of the game.
Bell was perfect through four with six strikeouts, while Metzger after battling out a jam with runners on first and second in the first inning, went on to retire nine in a row and kept it a scoreless affair heading into the fifth inning.
The turning point in the game came in the fifth inning when Middletown North pushed through for all of the game’s three runs.
A leadoff single by Jacey Tammaro jump started the Lions’ offense and after Lily Richichi reached base on an error, Middletown North was set up with runners at first and second with no outs.
Next at the plate was Mia Botti who hit a grounder right back to Metzger, but the sophomore's throw to third base went off the glove of teammate Sophia Coppola’s glove and out of play, allowing Middletown North to score the first run of the game.
Bell came up to the dish next for the Lions and helped herself out by smacking an RBI single to left field to put Middletown North up 2-0.
“I really wanted to come through for my team in that one at-bat.” Bell said. “We weren’t hitting as well as we wanted too. We all had to come up big in the situations we had.”
Later on in the inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Adriana Cerbo put together a great at-bat against Metzger and was able to work a walk to plate in another run for the Lions to make it 3-0.
Cerbo had an RBI and went one-for-two at the dish in the win for Middletown North.
The three-runs were all but plenty for Bell who, after giving up her only hit of the game to Coppola on a 2-out double in the fifth, continued to dominate the rest of the way like she has had in the first three games of the season.
Bell struck out Julia Terlizzi to end the fifth inning, and racked up two strikeouts in the sixth inning, while working around an error.
After striking out Metzger to begin the seventh inning, Bell got both Maya Mancini and Melissa Deissler to ground out to cap off her second straight complete-game shutout and help Middletown North improve to 4-0 on the season.
Bell is now 4-0 herself on the season and has 52 strikeouts. She hasn’t allowed a run all season long. After her perfect game against Matawan, Bell has only given up a total of the three hits in the last two games.
“I worked really hard in the offseason to have a better year than I had last year,” Bell said. “So far, I have been able to do that.”
Metzger gave up seven hits and had four strikeouts in her complete-game performance in the circle for Colts Neck.
After starting the season off 3-0, the Cougars have now dropped two straight games.
“We had one bad half inning that hurt us,” said Colts Neck softball coach Christina Ashe. “We’ve been beating ourselves up lately with one too many errors. We need to learn how to help ourselves out in the field and have good at-bats at the plate to score more runs. We need to bounce back and get ready for our next game.”
Colts Neck will host Wall on Wednesday.
Middletown North on the other hand will host Red Bank Regional.
With the Lions off to another strong start to the season, coach Chris Hoffman is happy where his team is at, especially with playing in a tough Shore Conference B-North Division.
“We did what we needed to win,” Hoffman said. “You always want to start the season off strong. We’re in a tougher division this year. There’s no easy win on our schedule. Anybody can beat anybody in this division.
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