Staying calm and collected when a big game is on the line very often makes a difference between winning and losing.
Junior centerfielder Marissa Barnes and junior shortstop Ashley Eisenstein kept their cool and delivered big for Freehold Township on Wednesday, swatting back-to-back singles to bring in the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the seventh, as the Patriots edged Marlboro, 3-2, in a crucial Shore Conference Class A North game.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,” said Barnes, who went 1-for-4 but drove in two runs. “But in that last at-bat, we had to put our heart into it. But we were going for the win. We didn’t want extra innings.”
After Barnes drove in Amanda Freyre on a sacrifice fly to right field in the bottom of the fifth to give the Patriots (6-2, 5-1) the initial lead, the Mustangs (5-3, 3-3) bounced right back in the top of the sixth with a pair of runs to grab the lead.
Sam Brinskelle reached on an infield single and went to second base on an overthrow to first, then went to third when Jaymee Fried dropped a bunt that went for another infield single. After Fried stole second, Sam Seratelli hit a grounder to Township first baseman Victoria Saporito, who fired home in an attempt to get Brinskelle, who slid into home safely to tie the contest.
With runners on the corners, Sophia Dolashewich dropped a squeeze bunt midway between the pitcher’s circle and home plate, bringing in Fried with the go-ahead run. Danielle Triola then put down another bunt and beat it out at first, loading the bases with none out.
However, Township pitcher Jordyn White, who fanned nine and walked three, got Sam George to bunt a ball foul for a third strike, whiffed leadoff batter Bonnie Picone, and then induced a pop-up to second base off the bat of Brianna Brienza to get out of the jam.
Still, heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Patriots, with only five hits to that point, needed to score in order to avoid their second divisional loss.
“I give Marlboro a lot of credit. They put the pressure on us and we dug ourselves into a hole,” said Township coach Beth English. “But our girls showed me a lot by getting out of that hole.”
Pinch-hitter Katie Tirabassi, a sophomore who’s 6-for-9 so far this season, got things started with a stinging line drive into right-center field. After Rhianna Rucinski sacrifice bunted Freyre, running for Tirabassi, over to second, Barnes lined another ball to right-center to score Freyre with the tying run and went to second on the throw to the plate.
After Barnes went to third on a wild pitch, Eisenstein then stroked a sharp grounder into center field to bring in Barnes with the game-winner. Saporito ended up 2-for-3 for Township, while Fried was 2-for-4 for Marlboro.
“Marlboro is a dangerous team,” English said. “But our girls were so clutch today.”