EDISON - Heading into today’s Greater Middlesex Conference softball tournament final, not many neutral fans would’ve have confidently picked a winner, but most probably expected the climax of the game to be razor close and dramatic. After all, today’s title game was a rematch of last year’s final, where South Brunswick High School prevailed over South Plainfield High School in extra innings via a play at the plate.
For most of today’s final, the top-seeded Lady Tigers (24-3) looked to be in good position to take home a straightforward three-run win. Unfortunately for South Plainfield, the Vikings’ (17-2) hitters came alive when their backs were against the wall, and the game quickly became the nail-bitter most anticipated.The second-seeded South Brunswick team rallied late to force extra innings, and then went on an ninth inning rally that handed South Plainfield their second straight GMC tournament final loss, this time by a 7-4 margin.
The play of South Plainfield has followed a pretty consistent storyline this year: stellar performances in the circle and in the field, and just enough offense to get a win. Ironically, hits weren’t hard to find for the Lady Tigers today.
South Plainfield picked up four hits in the first inning, and RBI singles from Danielle deCarlo and Camryn Schaeffer helped them take a 3-0 lead by the time the opening inning closed.
The score remained unchanged for five innings, and by the sixth inning all that remained between South Plainfield and a conference title was six outs. Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers, that’s when the game got flipped on its head.
In the top of the sixth,Carly Rybinski, Haley Grossi, and Jamie Klemas consecutively converted bunt singles to load the bases for the Vikings with no outs. South Plainfield pitcher Katherine Vill managed to concede just one run before forcing three outs, but the Vikings rally was far from over.
Kate Mastro hit an RBI double in the following inning to cut the lead to one. An intentional walk on Rybinski brought Grossi back up to the plate, and Grossi responded by hitting a deep single on the first pitch she saw, which brought Mastro in for the tying run.
Extra innings soon commenced, and in the top of the ninth the Vikings loaded the bases once again. A triple from Jess Risch cleared the bases and gave South Brunswick a shocking 7-3 lead. South Plainfield almost mounted a rally of their own in the bottom of the inning, and managed to score a run and load the bases, but a play at the plate ended the game before they could get their offense in full swing.
Eight of South Plainfield’s players finished with at least one hit, which combined for 13 team hits. South Brunswick had 12 team hits.
The game marked the end of the Vikings season, but South Plainfield will have another chance to earn a title, as they’ll be facing Middletown North in the finals of the North 2 Group 3 sectional tournament this Tuesday.