ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. -- For four-plus innings, the South Plainfield and Robbinsville High School softball teams were locked in a pitcher's duel going neck and neck.
Then, all of a sudden, the second-seeded Ravens strung together five runs on six hits in the bottom of the fifth on their way to a 7-1 victory over the sixth-seeded Tigers in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 tournament.
With the win, Robbinsville (23-4), ranked No. 13 in the NJ.com Top 20, will take on top-seeded Bordentown in the final.
“Great four innings,” South Plainfield coach Don Panzarella joked. “We left a lot of runners on base and if we take advantage of those -- we haven’t had a big hit in a while -- maybe we go ahead and the game changes. In the fifth, we put the players in the wrong spot and had some miscues. Hats off to them. They got the runs when they needed it and the hits.
“It was a good game up to that point. But, if you want to be a good team, you have score runs early.”
South Plainfield (20-6) actually did score early -- in the top of the first to be exact -- as Cameron Marks smashed a double to deep center field on the game’s first pitch and later came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Jillian Holoboski. Marks moved to third base on a sac bunt by Delaney Born.
But then, in the bottom of the first, rain and thunder made an unpleasant appearance and forced the contest in to a 1 hour and 10 minute delay.
The game resumed with one out and a runner on first for the Ravens and they cashed in on an RBI-single from Olivia Moser to score Shea Walsh.
“You can say it does or doesn’t. It could have affected us, but I’m not going to blame that,” Panzarella said.
South Plainfield would have plenty of chances to drive in some runs, but as Panzarella mentioned, it couldn’t get capitalize. The best chance it had was when it had the bases loaded and two outs in the third, but Shea Krebs, the starting pitcher for Robbinsville, got Julie Davis to fly out.
The Tigers tallied six hits in the game led by Davis and Born, who each singled twice.
When the wheels came off in the fifth, the frame started just fine for Holoboski, the pitcher for the Tigers. She got the first batter to ground out. But, Alexa Klepper hit a pitch to center that went under the glove of charging Catherine DeLair’s glove for a double to set Robbinsville up.
Ashley Veisz singled in the next at-bat and Alyssa Whitman followed with a tie-breaking, RBI-single to score Klepper. Chelsea Manto and Allie Taylor kept the train moving with RBI-singles each as well and Devon Witt capped the burst with a 2-run double for her 100th hit of her career.
Witt and Holoboski will be teammates come the fall at Franklin and Marshall in Pennsylvania.
Robbinsville would tack on another run in the sixth for good measure. Whitman and Veisz both had two hits apiece while Veisz also scored twice.
“Jill was just leaving it up (in the strike zone) a little bit later on. And when you get runners on and can’t get them to score, it’s tough,” Panzarella said. “The longer you go like that with a team like that, they’re going to get some runs. I’m disappointed in that and we threw the ball around a little bit and made it worse. It was a great game up to that point.”
While the loss might have ended South Plainfield’s season, it doesn’t take away the fact it still had a successful season. The Tigers won 20 games and advanced to both the semifinals of the state tournament and the Greater Middlesex Conference Championship Tournament.
Coming up on June 11, Davis and Holoboski will represent South Plainfield in the GMC softball all-star game held at in town under the lights.
“I just told them, 20 wins this year, I didn’t expect that. We had some young kids and others who hadn’t played much. They stepped up and you have to be proud,” Panzarella said.
“I didn’t want to end like this. But, they were awesome all year.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.