MIDDLESEX, N.J. -- The South Plainfield High School softball team continued their strong start to the 2017 season Thursday afternoon as the Lady Tigers bested the Middlesex High School Blue Jays, 13-3, under breezy, partly cloudy skies to move to 6-0.
One might think that the 10-run margin of victory that ended the game early at the end of the fifth inning would make a head coach happy, but not South Plainfield’s Don Panzarella. Panzarella has over 700 wins to his name and knows that if his team wants to make it back to the Greater Middlesex County Tournament and North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 finals, they’ll have to bring their bats and gold gloves every game.
The Tigers made two errors, and misplayed a couple others.
“I’m not happy. We’re known for good pitching and defense and getting timely hits,” Panzarella told TAPinto South Plainfield. “Today our defense made four, five mistakes that they’re going to cost us in a big game. That’s what I’m disappointed at. Today we jump out, but then we give them two runs. We were a little sloppy. Gotta get better, but it’s early in the season…”
South Plainfield jumped on the scoreboard early with four runs in the top of the first inning as the Tigers batted around. Pitcher Katherine Vill hit a sacrifice fly which scored shortstop Caity Hughes after she led off the game with an infield single, stole second and moved to third base on a single by third baseman Jillian Holoboski. Catcher Camryn Schaeffer then notched an RBI single to make it 2-0 and designated player/hitter Julie Davis smacked a two-RBI double to make it 4-0.
Hughes, who recently signed her letter of intent to play for Georgian Court University, finished the game 3-for-4 including a triple with two RBI and two runs scored. The senior outfielder turned shortstop because of team need is 10-for-20 so far on the season with eight RBI, 10 runs scored, and five stolen bases. She’s cooled off the last two games prior to Thursday going 0-for-7, but she started hot in the first three games of the year going 7-for-9 (.778) with six RBI, six runs scored, two triples, and one home run.
“She came out strong and has been ripping the ball,” Panzarella said of her star. “She slowed up the last game or so, but today she got a couple more (hits). She’s a good hitter. You’re going to have your ups and downs, but I think she found a way to get out of it. Her speed helps too leading off. We need some big things out of her. She sets the table a little bit, you know.”
After South Plainfield scored the four in the top of the first, Middlesex came back with two in the bottom half. But, the Tigers pulled away with six more runs of their own in the top of the second. They plated three more in the fifth.
For the game, Holoboski totaled two hits in three tries with an RBI and three runs scored. Schaeffer recorded two RBI as well.
From the circle, Vill moved to 6-0 herself on the year, pitching a five-hitter allowing two earned runs. The senior ace didn’t allow a walk a struck out 11.
“She’s a true competitor,” Panzarella said of Vill.
Before the season, Panzarella was tasked to replace senior veterans such as shortstop Meghan Hughes, left fielder Kayla Rivera, first baseman Naomi Nieves, and a couple players who shared designated player duties. Caity Hughes, again, moved to shortstop which opened a hole in centerfield as well.
Freshman Cameron Marks has taken over at first base, and she went 1-for-2 today with an RBI and a run scored. Sophomores Catherine DeLair (center field) and Julie Davis (designated player) have each solidly contributed as well with Davis tallying three total RBI against the Blue Jays. She’s driven in five on the season so far. And finally, senior Angela Sanchez has been placed in left field. Sanchez recorded a run scored an RBI against Middlesex and is batting .300.
“She’s doing her job and she’s been hitting the ball well,” Panzaella said of the first baseman Marks. “Then we got Julie Davis as the (designated player/hitter) and she’s gotten timely hits for us. Angela (Sanchez) has been a steady left fielder, and Catherine DeLair has done a super job in centerfield. Marks is a freshman and DeLair is a sophomore.”
“They’re young so they’re going to have their mistakes once in awhile.”
Next up for South Plainfield, the Tigers return home to host Roselle Park on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Panthers are 5-1 on the season.