SOUTH PLAINFIELD- Often times when two high level softball teams play each other, the winner of the game is decided by the slimmest of margins. Sometimes the game can come down to just error or one hit. The Coach Don Panzarella Field in South Plainfield was home to one of those kinds of games today.
The two top teams in the GMC White division squared off this afternoon as South Plainfield High School’s softball team hosted Sayreville High School. The undefeated and conference leading Tigers (9-0) were given their stiffest test to date, as the efforts of the Bombers’ pitcher Kelly Duffy kept the score tied 1-1 for the majority of the game.
South Plainfield’s defense persevered as well though, and eventually a walk off extra innings hit by Camryn Schaeffer gave the Tigers a well-earned 2-1 victory and handed Sayreville (7-2) their first conference loss of the year.
South Plainfield head coach Don Panzarella described the outcome as a big win over a tough team.
“It was a team that came down from the Red (Division) last year and moved into the White, and they were undefeated in the conference, so I knew it was going to be a tough game and it panned out just the way we expected it,” the coach said.
“With two good teams playing it could’ve went on for a while. Both kids did a great job on the mound, and I’m proud of the way we fought and came back.”
A solo homer by Caity Hughes in the Tigers’ first at-bat of the game made it seem like Duffy and the Bombers fielders would be in for a long day, but the senior pitcher quickly recovered by striking out the next three batters. Duffy went on to concede no runs and three hits in the next six innings. South Plainfield pitcher Katherine Vill quelled Sayreville’s scoring for most of the game as well, as the Bombers’ only run came when Duffy hit a single that sent Ashley Cannon home from second base in the third inning.
The Tigers threatened to retake the lead in the bottom of the fifth when three consecutive walks loaded the bases, but the Bombers survived and the game eventually went to extra innings. A single got Jillian Holoboski onto first base in the bottom of the eighth inning, and a well placed hit into center left field from Schaeffer in the next at-bat sent Holoboski home for the winning run.
The walk off was Schaeffer’s first hit in four at-bats, and although the senior admitted that she wasn’t extremely confident during her last at-bat, she did say she knew she had to make something happen.
“(Duffy’s) a great pitcher and was throwing hard all game, and I was struggling, but I knew I had to stay confident and swing the bat hard and put the ball in play and make something happen,” Schaeffer said after the game.
“I was happy with the walkoff hit for sure. I knew we just had to get it done somehow.”
Hughes drew four walks to go along with her solo homer, while Jennifer Grasso and Vill also finished with hits. In the circle, Vill struck out six while walking two and giving up seven hits.
Although the Tigers five team hits came few and far between, Panzarella noted his players did a good job of connecting on the ball and working the opposing pitcher.
“We hit the ball pretty well but we didn’t get a lot of hits, but we got the clutch hits that mattered,” the coach said.
“It’s what we’ve been saying all year. We play good D, and (Ville) pitches well and somebody needs to come up with a clutch hit, and Schaeffer seemed to come up with it today. It was a big win for us.”
The coach also said that the nature of the win should add some confidence to his team as they face off against a tough and competitive conference. His players seem to echo that sentiment.
“Every team is gunning for us, and we’re number one right now, so no one is going to take us lightly,” Schaeffer said. “We have to come out strong every time and take no at-bats for granted.”
The Tigers will host North Brunswick on Friday.