Absegami softball red hot, wins 7th straight
MAYS LANDING — Bobbie Beck was staring down a potential loss on Monday afternoon at ACIT. The tying and winning runs were at second and third with one out, and the host RedHawks had their Nos. 4 and 5 hitters coming up. Absegami's defense put Beck, the Braves' senior lefty ace, in a precarious position with a pair of catcher's interference calls and an infield error that had already led to a run.
But Beck has been in nerve-wracking spots before, and relied on her experience to get a pop-up and a ground out to seal Absegami's 3-2 win — the Braves' seventh straight — and allow her teammates to let out a collective sigh of relief.
"I knew they had beaten St. Joe's, and St. Joe's is a pretty good team, so I knew we were going to be in for a pretty good battle," said Absegami's Gabrielle Stepinski. "But Bobbie is great. She's a really good pitcher. We weren't nervous because we are a strong team."
Stepinski may not have been nervous, but Beck admitted she was feeling the pressure in that final inning.
"It was very nerve-wracking. We were getting the outs that we needed and I felt like the game was going really well," Beck said. "The umpire was calling obstruction (on the catcher), so it got a little frustrating, but we were able to fight through it."
Brooke Seelman started the bottom of the seventh with what appeared to be a ground out, but she was ruled safe because of catcher's interference. She then stole second, and leadoff hitter Ivonee Gautier bounced to shortstop, but Absegami first baseman Lexi O'Brien got a little too anxious trying to get Seeman at third with a return throw and dropped the ball on the transfer, allowing Gautier to reach safely. That put runners at first and third.
"We had the out at first base, but our first baseman tried to transfer the ball and throw her out (at third). That is the out (at first base). That's the tying run we need to keep off base," said Braves coach Pat Esemplare. "And she knows that, she's a senior. We had that play the other day where she threw the girl out and I guess she was itching to do it again."
Gautier then stole second, and another catcher's interference call loaded the bases.
"The first time, I heard it, so I knew it was going to get called," Esemplare said of the catcher's interference calls. "You really don't see that much. Maybe they moved back in the box, I don't know. Whatever the situation was, it was the right call, so I can't argue with that. But nothing rattles (Bobbie)."
Beck got the next hitter to pop up, but the RedHawks (5-5) shaved the lead to 3-2 when Seelman scored on a wild pitch. The other runners advanced to second and third with just one out, but Beck was able to work out of the jam to secure the win.
"I don't remember the last time we won seven in a row," Esemplare said. "The pitching has been incredible. Bobbie had three shutouts last week. She keeps us in the game. A year ago, we probably lose that game with that meltdown we had. But Bobbie has confidence she can get out of jams. She wants the ball, and she's been great."
Absegami (9-3) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI single by Thu Deo and an ACIT error, but the RedHawks answered in the bottom of the first, cutting the lead in half on a bases-loaded walk to Anna Mercurio. The Braves got a run in the third on Becca Roesch's single that scored Tiffany Bell.
Since a 5-1 loss to Millville on April 16, Absegami has beaten Oakcrest, Holy Spirit twice, Vineland, Atlantic City, Lower Cape May and ACIT. During that span, the Braves have outscored opponents 71-7.
"We've been playing well. We have seven wins, we're on a streak," Beck said. "We've had some easy games, but we've also had some games where everybody stays in there and is focused. Our game against Vineland, we got down 3-1, we didn't score for two innings, but we came back and fought hard. I think we have a very good team this year."
"What we've been able to do (during the streak) is get a lead and tack runs on," Esemplare said. "Against Vineland, we were down 3-1 but then took the lead, 4-3, made it 5-3, made it 7-3. And when you're up by four runs, that makes things a lot easier to deal with. They understand that. One of our goals is to score first, and if we get a lead to tack runs on."
Beck said having a strong defense behind her is a huge advantage.
"I know that when the ball gets hit, they are going to make the plays," Beck said. "Even when the ball gets hit in the outfield, if there is a dinky ball behind second base, I know our center fielder (Bell) is fast enough and she'll make a diving play. That makes me confident.
Esemplare said he was impressed with ACIT, especially pitcher Sami Kemmerer, who had eight strikeouts and allowed only a handful of hits.
"We might see them again in the playoffs. They pitch well, they play defense, and their order has enough hits in it to win a game," Esemplare said. "They've beaten some good teams. They've beaten St. Joe's and Cedar Creek, so we might get a chance to see them again."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays