DOVER, NJ - For six innings, it appeared the Newton softball team was on the verge of being upset by a one win, but suddenly upstart Dover squad.
Luckily for the visitors from Sussex County, that all changed very quickly in the seventh and final frame.
Trailing 4-2, Newton used a combination of hits and Dover fielding errors to push six runs across the plate, taking an 8-4 road decision in an independent game played at King Field. Freshman Brave catcher Emma Hesse delivered the go-ahead single in that big inning, driving home Annie Ehrenberg to take the lead they would not relinquish.
“Nothing was going right for us all day it seemed,” said Hesse after the game. "But we put it all together at the end and got a win out of it.”
The Newts did, in fact, get off to a fast start. Caitlin Hall led off the game with a single. After Ehrenberg bunted her over to second, Hall scored two batters later when a Dover throwing error on a Hesse grounder allowed the run to score, giving Newton a 1-0 edge. Tigers pitcher Chelsea Maher (L, 1-15) avoided any further damage by inducing a grounder to third by Jackie Gore.
Dover responded with a tally of its own in their first inning turn at bat. Standout shortstop Leyri Rivera reached on an error, and crossed the plate two batters when Newton committed a throwing error following a Jessica Castro base hit.
The Tigers, who drop to 1-15 after this loss, pieced together another rally in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Maggie Avallone singled to lead off the stanza, stole second base and advanced to third on a passed ball. Nine-hitter Katie Vanderkooi grounded in a RBI, scoring Avallone and giving Dover a 2-1 lead. Castro tripled home Hannah Pyrzynski, who reached on a force play, to give Dover a 3-1 lead entering the middle frames.
The scoreboard would not change until the fifth, when Dover added to its lead once more and seemingly put the Braves’ chances in serious jeopardy. Rivera again struck for Dover, this time not only managing to escape a run down, but actually score on it when the county seaters suffered a mental lapse and failed to cover home plate after a few tosses back and forth.
But Gore started the comeback for the Braves with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, doubling in the right-center field gap. Kelly Rajczyk came through with a clutch base hit up the middle, driving in the road team’s second run.
After Newton pitcher Kelsi Hosler (W, 4-5) retired Dover 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the sixth, the Newton comeback was set up perfectly.
A key factor to the six-spot stanza were the Newts eight and nine-hitters Gabrielle Brown and Angelica Morro, respectively, reaching base by singling to begin the inning.
“Once the bottom of our lineup came through, I had a good feeling as to what was going to come,” explained Newton head coach Curt Pakutka after the game, “then our power bats came up and broke it open for us.”
His feeling quickly turned into fact, as Hall singled and drove home a run, followed by Ehrenberg, who also singled home a run and advanced an extra base on a fielding error in the process, setting up Hesse’s go ahead knock. Gore capped a 3 for 4 day with a two run triple, making the score 8-4.
Hosler retired the final three batters in succession, finally retiring Rivera on the last at bat of the game, fittingly on a well struck frozen rope laced right to second base.
For Newton, who will qualify for the State Tournament in the North II, Group II bracket, the win proved to be a bit historical: the team won a second consecutive game for the first time since the 2009 campaign, a sign the Braves have rapidly improved in 2013.
“It’s a big accomplishment to make the state tournament, definitely a big turnaround for a program that has struggled in recent years, hopefully we keep it going and keep winning games,” said Pakutka.
The box score:
Newton (6-11): 1 0 0 0 0 1 6- 8 14 4
Dover (1-15): 1 0 2 0 1 0 0- 4 4 4
Runs Scored: Newton 8 (Jackie Gore 2, Caitlin Hall 2, Gabrielle Brown, Annie Ehrenberg, Emma Hesse, Angelica Morro.) Dover 4 (Leyri Rivera 2, Maggie Avallone, Hannah Pyrzynski.)
WP: (N) Kelsi Hosler (4-5) LP: (D) Chelsea Maher (1-15)
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