FREEHOLD, N.J. The terrific start to the 2019 season got even better for the Holmdel High School softball team on Wednesday in the opening round of the Monmouth County Tournament.

Tied 6-6 with Freehold Township going into the eighth inning, the Hornets had some extra- inning magic left in their bats to propel them to a 9-7 win over the Patriots to advance in the tournament and improve to 9-1 on the season.

A one-out single by Crystal Carino started the rally for the Hornets in the eighth inning, and after Carino advanced to second base on the fielder’s choice, Holmdel had the go-ahead run on second with two outs.

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Next at the plate stood Madison Yan and the young freshman center fielder came up in the clutch for the Hornets, blooping in an RBI single to center field give Holmdel a 7-6 lead.

“I didn’t think it was going to drop in at first,” Madison Yan said. “I was just thinking about getting a single. It’s just so crazy.”

Back in the lead, Emma Quirk came up to bat next for Holmdel and provided the Hornets with some insurance runs in a big way.

Already smacking a two-run home run back in the fifth inning to help Holmdel take a 4-3 lead at the time, Quirk once again showed off her power with a long bomb to dead center to extend the Hornets’ lead to 9-7.

“It felt really good hitting that home run,” Quirk said. “I was just trying to do my job and get on base. We played one of our best games of the season to get the win.”

Quirk had a monster day at the plate for Holmdel. The sophomore shortstop went three-for-five at the dish with a game-high five RBI.

Quirk’s RBI single with bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning helped give Holmdel a 6-5 lead.

Two-run home runs were a common thing for the Hornets in the game. In the top of the first inning, Allison Yan put Holmdel out to an early 2-0 lead with a two-run shot to left field.

The senior first baseman finished with two hits in the three hole for Holmdel in the win.

Being one of four seniors on the team, Yan couldn’t be happier with Holmdel’s hot start to the season.

“I kept fouling pitches off and then hit the last pitch in the air. Didn’t think it was going out at first, but it carried out,” Allison Yan said. “Having losing records the past few seasons to now having a great start to the season is amazing. The team chemistry is great. I love it.”

Holmdel had a chance to close it out in the bottom of the seventh being up 6-5, but Freehold Township rallied back to tie it.

Kiersten Withstandley scored on a wild pitch to tie the game and force extra innings.

Withstandley had two runs scored for Freehold Township in the contest. Teammate Zoey Valentino had a big day at the plate, going two-for-four with a team-high three RBI.

Kristen Pagliaro reached base three times for Freehold Township in the contest with two hits, two runs scored and an RBI.

A missed opportunity to close it out in the seventh, Holmdel didn’t panic and came right back out in extra innings to grab back hold of the lead with a three-run eighth inning.

The second two-run home run by Quirk proved to be the game-winning runs for Holmdel. It was also the first time in her career that Quirk hit two home runs in a game.

“It’s definitely a big accomplishment, but I’m just happy the team got the win,” Quirk said on her two home run day. “As a team, this was a great win. We kept picking each other up throughout the game. Very proud of the team.”

Freehold Township didn’t go down without a fight, cutting the Holmdel lead to 9-7 on a one-out RBI single by Lauren Andersen.

Still up two with runners on first and third and one out, Holmdel starting pitcher Tara Musialowicz buckled down to retire the next two batters to close the game out.

Musialowicz struck out Lauren Pscolka and then got Withstandley to ground out to second to end the game and help the Hornets advance to the second round of the tournament.

The senior had three strikeouts in her complete-game performance to win her ninth game of the season. Musialowicz also had a hit and a run scored at the plate for Holmdel.

Abbey Quirk had two hits and scored a run in the win for Holmdel, while teammate Hudson Yan reached base twice and also scored a run in the win.

Holmdel has now won four games in a row.

The Hornets will face Middletown North in the second round of the Monmouth County Tournament. Their next game will be Friday at home against Raritan.

“It feels good to come out of a back-and-forth game on top,” said Holmdel softball coach Nora Bosmans. “Our team didn’t give up one second. They buckled down at the end and produced when it mattered the most. It’s a very important win, especially at this time of the year being half way through the season and we’re looking towards states and the Shore Conference Tournament. Going far in the Monmouth County Tournament. It’s a good quality win.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports