Holmdel, N.J. - Both the Colts Neck High School and Holmdel High School softball teams had the opportunity in front of them on Saturday to earn a spot in the finals of the Monmouth County Tournament Blue Division. The Cougars, behind the terrific pitching of Ava Metzger and great hitting up and down the line with runners in scoring position, jumped out to an early 6-0 lead. Holmdel fought back through the big bats of Allison Yan and Nicolette Pavlik to give themselves a chance to tie the game in the seventh inning. With the tying run at the plate and needing just one to send her team to the finals, Metzger came up clutch for the Cougars, striking out Tara Musialowicz to end the game to seal up a 6-4 victory for Colts Neck.

“It feels really good to help the team get a win and help us get to the finals,” Metzger said. “I didn’t have my best stuff on the mound, but I was able to make it through the game and help my team get the win.”

Briana Clementi helped spring Colts Neck to a 2-0 lead to begin the contest, helping the Cougars score the first run of the game on a sac-fly in the first inning.

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In her next at-bat in the third inning, Clementi came up big for the Cougars with a runner on third base and two outs, smacking an RBI single up the middle to knock in her second run of the afternoon.

“It felt great to get those first two runs in for my team,” Clementi said. “I was more selective at the plate with the pitches I swung at and that helped me make good contact in those at-bats.”

Clementi reached base three times in the contest to go along with her team-high two RBIs in for Colts Neck.

The two runs were enough for Metzger, who kept the Holmdel bats quiet with three scoreless innings to begin the contest, striking out three Hornets batters in the process.

Colts Neck opened up its lead in the fourth inning, beginning with Emily Cannizzaro doing a good job hitting with no outs and runners on second and third, poking a ground ball to the right side for fielder's choice to score the Cougars’ third run of the day.

In the following at-bat, Gia Zack made it 4-0 in favor of Colts Neck with an RBI single to right field, and later scored on Felicia Kuegler’s double to the gap in left center to put the Cougars up 5-0.

“We’ve been working on hitting better with runners in scoring position and it was great to see that pay off for the girls in this game,” said Colts Neck softball coach John Corrado.

Kuegler did a great job in the leadoff spot for Colts Neck, going 3-for-3 at the dish and reaching base four times in the game.

Metzger, later on in the inning, helped herself out at the plate with an RBI base hit of her own to make it a 6-0 lead for Colts Neck.

Needing a spark to get themselves into the ball game, Holmdel got a big one in the bottom half of the inning when Pavlik took a 3-2 pitch from Metzger and sent it over the center field wall for a solo shot to get the Hornets on the board.

Pavlik’s home run led to the Hornets’ bats waking up in the fifth inning with Yan coming up big with two-out and a runner in scoring position, blasting a two-run double to the gap in left center to cut the Holmdel deficit to 6-3.

“I knew I had to come through for my team in that situation and was just looking for a pitch to hit hard,” Yan said.

Yan came through again for Holmdel in the seventh inning, picking up a bloop single to score Isabella Lamberti from third base with two outs to cut the Colts Neck lead to two runs.

Lamberti had two hits in the nine-hole for the Hornets.

With the tying run at the plate in Musialowicz, the Hornets had a shot to extend the game into extra innings. Down to her last strike, Musialowicz fouled off two straight pitches from Metzger. Looking for some way to put Musialowicz away, Metzger went up the ladder with a fast ball to pick up her game-high 11th strikeout of the game and helped Colts Neck improve to 10-6 on the season.

“Advancing to the finals of the Monmouth County Tournament and winning 10 games this season are two big things for this program. Very proud of our team’s play this season,” Corrado said.

With the loss, Holmdel drops to 5-10 on the season.

“Our team showed a lot of heart to come back from down 6-0 and give themselves a chance to win the game at the end,” said Holmdel softball coach Nora Bosmans. “It’s good to know that our team never gives up. It’s disappointing coming up short, but it’s another game that we grow and learn from for the rest of the season.”

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