EDISON -- There’s never a bad time to get revenge for a previous loss, but it doesn't’t get much better than being able to pull it off in a crucial postseason game.
Earlier today, the top-seeded South Plainfield High School softball team got the chance to settle the score against J.P Stevens in the GMC tournament semifinals. The fifth-seeded Hawks (16-5) narrowly got the better of the two teams’ first encounter this season, and this time around a berth in the GMC Championship game was on the line.
A fielding error put the Lady Tigers (22-3) at a deficit after the top of the first inning, but a rally in the bottom of the inning and seven innings of solid pitching from Katherine Vill allowed South Plainfield to get their revenge with a hard-earned 2-1 win, which put the team back into the GMC finals.
South Plainfield head coach Don Panzarella admitted that today’s game wasn’t the greatest demonstration of his team’s fielding abilities, but he was still understandably impressed that his players were able to pull out the big win.
“We found a way to win and that’s exciting,” Panzarella said. “I don’t think it was our best defensive game. They shouldn’t have had a run, but we dropped the ball. You can’t do that in this type of game, but thank God we came back and got two.
“Sometimes we’re good enough to hold it, but they way we were playing today I was a little worried,” the coach added. “(Vill) finds a way to hold them, and somebody comes up and makes a big play. That's the way we’re going to win those games. I’m impressed.”
There weren’t a ton of hits today, but South Plainfield certainly made the most of the first ones they got. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Caity Hughes hit a lead-off single on her team’s first at-bat, and Jillian Holoboski brought Hughes home with a single of her own. On a full count, and with one out remaining in that inning, Camryn Schaeffer hit a long ball to deep center that gave her a double and drove Holoboski home for what proved to be the final run of the game.
Schaeffer’s clutch hit would be impressive on its own, but it’s even more extraordinary since the senior catcher was on crutches with an ankle injury just days ago. On Thursday, South Plainfield’s coaches were not sure if Schaeffer would be able to play today. If you ask her though, it was never in doubt.
“I knew I was playing this game, there was no way I wasn’t going to play,” Schaeffer said. This morning has been insane; from the athletic trainer to the athletic director to Panz’s wife, everyone was so fantastic. They did whatever they had to do, they called me three times a day to make sure I was icing and elevated and all that. It just feels good to be back. Since they beat us we wanted this really bad. It just feels great to be back in the finals.”
Schaefer went 2-for-2 on the day, while Vill struck out five and walked one while giving up five hits.
Julie Siecinski scored the Hawks’ sole run of the day off an infield error on a pop up.
South Plainfield will take on second-seeded South Brunswick in the conference finals at Middlesex County College on Friday. The Lady Tigers and the Lady Vikings didn't’t face each other earlier this season, but the two teams have a rivalry in GMC Championship play, and South Brunswick defeated South Plainfield in 11 innings in last year’s final, 6-4.
It’s safe to say that getting revenge for last year’s final has been on South Plainfield’s minds for quite some time.
“We want them again, we definitely want to face them again,” said Schaeffer. “They’re like our rivals.”