It took 16 games for the Bridgewater-Raritan High School softball team to put it all together, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Panthers excelled in every facet, getting clutch hitting, a dynamic pitching effort, and some stellar defense, as the No. 4 seed opened its Somerset County Tournament run in style.
Sophomore right-hander Abby Herman tossed a six-hit shutout, walking one and striking out five, and Bridgewater-Raritan used a six-run sixth inning to put the game away and claim a 7-0 victory over fifth-seeded Somerville on Saturday at North Bridge Street Park.
“Today we came out as the new Bridgewater,” said Panthers senior shortstop Jordan Stephenson, who finished a single, a walk, a run and two RBI. “Everyone came together and we finally all played as a team instead of individuals, and it was great to watch. We talked about it at practice yesterday (Friday) and even had a little meeting afterwards. We said that we all needed to come to play today, and everyone did.”
“It was so nice to finally have everything come together,” said Bridgewater-Raritan coach Sandy Baranowski, whose team improved to 6-10 and will face top-seeded Hillsborough in next Saturday’s semifinals. “We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting.”
While the final score might suggest a lopsided game, that certainly wasn’t the case, and it was actually Somerville that looked like the better team for most of the contest.
Pioneers ace Amanda Carisone cruised through the first three innings, with the lone base-runner coming on a two-out first inning error. At the same time, the Somerville offense was setting things up nicely, collecting hits in each of the first six innings, but the Pioneers couldn’t find the clutch knock. Somerville stranded six runners and had one thrown out at the plate on left fielder Alyssa Natale’s perfect toss, and another doubled up at third base by first baseman Lauren Gorski after a routine grounder to shortstop.
Herman, meanwhile, made some huge pitches in big spots, including escaping a second-and-third jam in the second inning with one out.
“It gives you confidence knowing you have backup behind you, no matter what,” Herman said. “Every single player was sharp today. Even if me made a mistake or bobbled the ball, we got right back up and that really helped us. I have a lot of confidence in my team, and I feel like it showed. We all brought our hearts here and I think that made me have the confidence to pitch better.”
Bridgewater-Raritan finally got to Carisone in the fourth inning, as Natale ripped a double off the left-field fence with out bringing up Stephenson, who lined an RBI single to left field to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Carisone shook it off, getting the side in order in the fifth, including two via strikeout, but the Somerville defense fell apart in the sixth as two errors and a couple of other misplays led to six runs, with Gorski’s two-run double with two outs the only ball hit hard the entire frame.
“Defensively, offensively, best game of the year, by far,” Baranowski said. “And nothing’s better than it happening in the county tournament. It’s so prestigious, and that’s when you want your kids to play at their best.”
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