EHT softball wipes out 5-3 deficit, rallies late to beat Millvile and remain undefeated
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The mark of a great boxer is being able to take a punch and not go down, even when the knees get a little wobbly and a little bit of double vision starts creeping in.
The Egg Harbor Township softball team took Millville's best punch on Thursday afternoon and responded with a stirring comeback that led to a 6-5 win that kept the high-flying Eagles undefeated.
The Eagles (5-0) jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Millville (2-1) came storming back to take a 5-3 lead. Egg Harbor Township got a run back in the bottom of the fifth to cut the deficit to 5-4, then rallied for a pair of runs in the sixth to take a 6-5 lead. The Thunderbolts didn't go quietly, however, putting the first two runner on base and forcing EHT coach Mary Dunlap to go to the bullpen and bring in Tori Szrom in relief of Nicole Wisser, who had turned in a gritty performance up to that point against one of the toughest lineups in the Cape-Atlantic League.
Caroline Kruger laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, but Szrom buckled down and fanned the next two hitters to end the game.
"I think I'm still in shock right now. I'm still trying to let it settle in. It was a good win," Dunlap said. "We've been preaching to the girls to be a part of the team and that you can't do it all by yourself. Yesterday, we had a tough battle against Absegami and they fought hard, and I think that rolled over into today. I think they understand that this is a team sport. Not everybody is going to have their 'A' game, so we have to pick each other up. It's really nice to see them gel together."
"They are definitely a really good team. Us beating them shows the whole CAL where we are, and that we are a strong program with a lot of layers," said EHT shortstop Cris McElhinney.
Millville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Kimberly Musarra scored on a groundout by Sydney Shannon, but EHT responded with a pair of runs in its half of the first. Szrom tripled to right to drive in leadoff hitter Marissa Varela, who had reached on an error, and Szrom scored on another infield error by the Bolts. The Eagles tacked on a run in the fourth when McElhinney's bloop single to right drove in Kate Korte, who had singled to start the inning and moved to second on Miranda Cincotti's sacrifice bunt.
The Bolts rallied for four runs in the top of the fifth to take a 5-3 lead. Kady Mae Makos stroked a two-run single to right to tie the game, Kaila Smith added an RBI groundout, and Shannon drove in a run with a sharp single to left.
In the sixth, Korte reached on an error and scored the tying run when McElhinney ripped a double just inside the third-base bag.
"I wasn't really nervous. She was throwing a lot of inside pitches, so I just went with it," McElhinney said.
Bri Lagroteria — who made two run-saving catches in left field earlier in the game — followed with an RBI single to right that plated McElhinney with what turned out to be the winning run.
"Bri made a couple of good catches that did save us, definitely. And she came through (at the plate) for us," Dunlap said. "I can honestly say that the hitting goes throughout the lineup. There might be a day when one or two of us are off, but then somebody else picks us up. That's the luxury of being on a team, everybody is there for one another."
McElhinney and Lagroteria, the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup, combined to drive in half of EHT's six runs.
"I truly believe that all our girls are eager to get into the batter's box. They are eager to hit, and they want to be in (pressure) situations. I do believe we are strong, one-through-nine," Dunlap said. "This is a huge confidence booster. The coach from Millville, I have the utmost respect for her. She always has a program that is competitive, well disciplined with the fundamentals. This is my fourth year as head coach and we've never beaten them. In the past, we've had dogfights where we'd go 13, 14 or 15 innings with them. I'm grateful we didn't have to do that today. I have a lot of respect for her, she's a very talented coach who runs a great program."
"This was our toughest game so far. We all knew coming into it that it was going to be a hard game, but I knew we could come out on top. I don't think any of us were nervous. We knew we could pull through and come out on top. I don't think we had any doubts," said Wisser, who allowed just six hits in 6 1/3 innings to get the win.
Wisser said she knew Szrom could get the final two outs, even with the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position.
"I have tons of confidence in her. She's a great pitcher, and I knew she could get the job done," Wisser said.
Wisser worked out of several jams. In the first inning, she allowed just one run even though Millville loaded the bases with just one out. Then, she stranded two Millville runners on base in both the fifth and six innings.
"She was great. She's a senior, and she really wanted this game," McElhinney said of Wisser. "We were behind her the whole time, and when you have a team like that, it's easy to be in those pressure situations."
"I was expecting that we were going to have a very competitive game," Dunlap said. "(Wisser) has done really well for us this year. She's a great kid and a hard worker. She's a competitor and she wants the ball. You have to love a kid who wants the ball."
"Millville has been our biggest competition so far, so I think it's looking good for the future," Wisser said. "I think we are going to be a really good team this year and we'll have a chance to go really far."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays