After the winning run had scored Wednesday, it was evident a racous celebration was about to take place at Wall Township High School. And rightfully so, because the Knights had just won their first Shore Conference Tournament softball championship in 22 years with an 8-7 victory over St. John Vianney.
“It takes a team that has immense desire and heart to win at this level,” Wall head coach Tony Vodola said.”But of course, there’s more to it than that. They still have to come out and perform.”
“When we got knocked out of the state tournament, the girls made a vow that no matter what, they were going to play their hearts out in every inning of every game for the rest of this season. And I think they lived up to that promise.”
After a diving catch by Lancers right fielder Amanda Durham on a sinking line drive in the bottom of the sixth inning, followed by a controversial call at first base that reversed a momentum crushing double play leaving the Knights with bases loaded, one out, and hope, Jess Goldman stepped to plate with the score knotted at seven and delivered a short pop fly behind second base.
The catch was made a step onto the outfield grass by Cailin Winokur who spun and fired to the plate but not in time to nab Sydney Canessa who scored the game-winning run with a hook slide and impressive instincts, skipping her hand like rock on a lake over the glove of Kristen Solari before slapping it on the plate.
“Standing on third, I knew my potential run was going to decide the game because they had the momentum,” explained Canessa. “So I told myself, no matter what, if it was a short pop-up I was going to try and score. I wanted to be the one with the responsibility of scoring the winning run.”
In the bottom half of the fourth inning Canessa provided the Knights with a four-run cushion, hitting a three-run opposite-field double in the gap as part of her 2-for-4 performance.
However, it was the Knights’ Dani Petrone who sparked the offensive onslaught in Wall’s half of the third inning with a two-run blast on a 1-1 pitch that cleared the 210-foot mark in center field.
“The home run was huge,” said Petrone of her clutch blast, “the three-run lead was big. Everyone felt it and started to relax after that. Hitting is definitely contagious with us and it showed today.”
St. John Vianney spurred a late inning comeback in the top of the sixth inning, erasing a four-run lead by taking advantage of a pair of defensive mishaps.
Following three consecutive singles by Katie Beriont, Erica Krumbine, and Zoe Otterman, Winokur stepped to bat with two outs and runners on second and third, delivering a ground ball to third base that was mishandled, allowing Krumbine to score and the inning to be extended after the Knights had Otterman hung up in a resulting rundown, but failed to execute.
A passed ball allowed Otterman and Winokur to move up, leaving first base open for Wall to intentionally walk the Lancers’ ever-dangerous Taylor August, and all went according to plan until Alexis Carlsson allowed a double to August to tie the game at seven.
SJ Vianney (25-3) 0 0 0 2 1 4 0 7 9 0
Wall (25-5) 1 0 2 4 0 1 x 8 12 1
2B: (W) Clayton, Canessa; (S) Durham, August; HR: (W) D. Petrone; WP: Carlsson (25-5); LP: Beriont