After knocking off Ocean on Saturday in a nondivisional, regular-season contest, Howell went into its Monmouth County Tournament Red Division quarterfinal with the higher-seeded Spartans on Thursday really confident, especially since the Rebels are one of the hottest teams in the Shore Conference right now.
But besides playing a confident team, Ocean put itself in a hole right from the start, committing four errors and yielding a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The 14th-seeded Rebels ended up ousting the sixth-seeded Spartans, 8-4, and advanced to meet either second-seeded Wall or 10th-seeded Manasquan in the semifinals on May 11 at Wall High School.
“We knew they would want revenge after we beat them over the weekend,” said Howell shortstop AnneMarie Bartow, who went 3-for-4 with a double. “But we have such a great hitting team and we knew we’d be able to score some runs, and we took advantage of their mistakes.”
In the first, Bartow led off the game with a single to right-center field and scored when Ocean committed back-to-back errors, before another allowed Kelly Hardiman and Julia Moscato to score Howell’s second and third runs. After Vivian Montgomery singled to center and advanced on a groundout to put runners on second and third with two outs, Taylor Mennie also reached on an error in the outfield, allowing Jackie Coulahan and Montgomery to cross the plate.
In the second, the Rebels (10-4), winners of their last seven after starting off 3-4, scored another run when Bartow doubled to left and Hardiman doubled to left-center to score Bartow and make it 6-0. A walk to Jackie Coulahan with the bases loaded in the fourth made it 7-0.
The Spartans (13-4) finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth, when Veronica Woehr doubled to left-center to bring in Gianna Kinhofer, who had been hit by a pitch two batter earlier, and then scored on a single off the bat of Kaitlyn Pascua, making it a 7-2 contest.
But in the fifth, Howell got a run back on a fielder’s choice to take an 8-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth, before Kinhofer slugged a two-run homer to straightaway center to trim the deficit to four.
Kinhofer held the Rebels scoreless in the sixth and seventh, and the Spartans threatened in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with two outs, but couldn’t push another run across and were eliminated from the MCT.
Montgomery ended up 2-for-3. Kinhofer and Woehr were 2-for-3 and 2-for-4, respectively.
In the circle, Alyssa Ruiz was effective for Howell, striking out nine and walking two.
Going forward, Bartow believes the Rebels’ key to winning is to simply keep doing what they’ve been doing the past two weeks.
“I expect us to keep hitting the ball well,” she said. “We just have to keep playing our game the way we should be playing it, and not make a lot of mistakes in the field.”