SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Bouncing back from a tough loss can be hard during any time in the season, but it can be especially difficult in the postseason tournaments. South Plainfield High School’s softball team managed to make it look pretty easy.
In front of a home crowd on Monday afternoon, the South Plainfield Tigers bounced back from last week’s state tournament loss and defeated Edison High School 12-1 in the opening round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. The win pushes the Tiger’s record to 23-2 and puts them in the second round of the conference tournament.
Last Friday’s loss was undoubtedly a tough one for the Tigers. As the number two seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 tournament, they gave up a close 2-1 fight against the 15th seed Warren Hills. Despite the loss, the Tigers, also the top seed in the GMC tourney, came into Monday’s conference tournament game in good spirits.
“I think they bounced back well coming off the tough game we had on Friday,” said Don Panzarella, the head coach of the Tigers. “We were all in good moods today and came to play.”
The Tigers positivity helped them take control of the game quickly. In the first inning Caity Hughes led off the game with a triple. Meghan Hughes knocked her sister Caity home for a 1-0 lead, and before the first inning ended the Tigers knocked in a total of five runs for a 5-0 lead. Meghan Hughes, Jennifer Grasso, Naomi Nieves, and Katherine Vill all recorded RBIs in the first inning.
“Caity hit the ball real well, Grasso made a nice play to end the game and she’s a freshman so it was a good job. Basically the team played well,” said Panzarella. “They came back and battled well, I thought they did well today.”
Caity Hughes finished the game with two hits, a double and a triple, and three RBIs. Vill recorded another win for the Tigers on the mound, while striking out seven batters on the day. The sophomore pitcher got the complete game victory allowing just four hits, three of which came during the last inning.
“On the mound she did well.” said Panzarella. “She just gave up a few hits in a row. I think she lost a little concentration when she had the 12-0 lead but I thought she did well.”
Panzarella says the team needs to work on closing out games. Edison’s one run came during the last inning.
“We just got to learn how to shut people down,” said the head coach. “We’re up 12 nothing and we just need to get three outs and we let them get a couple hits, a couple baserunners, and then a run. We just got to learn how to finish things. It was a good game though.”
Up next in the tournament will be either South Brunswick or Dunellen. The team is expecting a tough game in the next round, but expects to move forward.
“It’s gonna be tough. We’re the number one seed, not that that means anything.” said Panzarella. “We’re here because we deserve to be here. Can we beat South Brunswick? Yeah we can, but we’ve got to play our game; the way we’ve been playing all year. Even our two losses were good games. So we’re in every game and we find a way to battle. As long as they play the way they know how to play it’s going to be a real good game on Thursday.”