SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. -- In a tightly contested softball game between two high-caliber teams, sometimes it takes just one play in the field, one pitch, or one hit to make the difference.
Catcher Camryn Schaeffer made the difference and then some when she smacked a deep grand slam home run over the centerfield wall in the bottom of the sixth inning to help propel the South Plainfield High School Lady Tigers over the Monroe Falcons, 6-2, Saturday morning at Coach Panzarella Field in South Plainfield.
“It was bases and there was no outs and I knew I had to put the ball in play,” Schaeffer told TAPinto South Plainfield. “They’re a good hitting team so I knew they had a chance in the seventh inning so I just had to put the ball in play and make something happen. I was really happy with the grand slam for sure.”
For Schaeffer, it was her fourth home run and first grand slam of her career. The senior backstop finished the day 2-for-3 adding a double to go along with her blast. Schaeffer had one heck of week as she also hit the game-winning walk-off RBI single on Tuesday to beat Sayreville 2-1 in 10 innings and went 2-for-4 with an RBI double on Friday.
“She’s a senior. She’s a great kid and works hard,” said South Plainfield head coach Don Panzarella about Schaeffer. “She struggled as far as batting average a little bit in the beginning of the year, but she’s hit the ball hard and now it’s starting to all come together. It’s what you’re looking for out of one of your leaders and in the five spot.”
With the game tied up at 1-1 since the bottom of the first inning, shortstop Caity Hughes provided a spark for the Tigers leading off the sixth inning with a triple. After walks to right fielder Jennifer Grasso and third baseman Jillian Holoboski, a passed ball allowed Hughes to utilize her speed and touch home to put South Plainfield up 2-1. Pitcher Katherine Vill then mustered another walk at the plate which set up the bomb moments later by Schaeffer.
Monroe would tack on a run in the top of the seventh, but Vill kept her personal and team’s record a perfect 11-0 on the season hurling a five-hitter allowing two runs and no walks while striking out nine.
“It’s too easy. She puts everything right there (in the strike zone). She’s so good and nobody can hit her,” Schaeffer said on Vill’s pitching prowess.
“They find a way to battle,” Panzarella added about his squad. “(Monroe’s 4-7) record doesn’t show what kind of team they are. They’re tough. They hit one through nine. This was a big win.”
While all things are good for now in Tiger country, Panzarella needs more production out of the bottom half of his lineup. The six through nine batters in the order went 1-11 against the Falcons.
“I just want to have some other kids to help out (production wise) instead of the same kids all the time. It’s gonna be a team effort. They gotta believe they can do it,” Panzarella said. “They’re young kids, but it can be done.”
One of the girls the head coach is getting help out of is Grasso. The steady right fielder is batting a solid .310 on the season and is playing spectacular defense. Always fundamentally sound with two hands up catching a fly ball, the junior gets a lot of action with tons balls hit in her direction. With Hughes having been moved from center field to shortstop this year out of need, Panzarella flirted with moving Grasso over to center, but decided to keep her posted up in right where she’s made a number of acrobatic grabs.
“Probably one of the best outfielders I’ve ever seen in a long time,” Panzarella said, who owns over 700 career wins. “She’s the best right fielder and she covers everything. It makes a big difference when you got a kid out there that can handle it. She’s awesome.”
Next up for the Tigers is a road matchup at Woodbridge on Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. As of this writing, the Barrons are 4-8 on the year.