NephHope Foundation board member Paschell Sutton seemed to enjoy the games and atmosphere of the first NephHope Kidney Klassic. But more than that, she was appreciative of the local softball community’s support during Saturday’s invitational event at Manalapan High School.
“This was a wonderful event and the NephHope Foundation is very gracious for the support,” said Sutton, whose organization raises funds to help with research in an attempt to find a cure for nephtonophthisis, a rare kidney disease which affects Logan and Kylie Wyers, two of three children of Robbinsville athletic director Curtis Wyers.
Manalapan softball coach Chris Hoffman – who coaches basketball at Robbinsville during the winter season – and his team organized and hosted the event to raise money for the NephHope Foundation.
“Curtis has been touched by all the girls’ efforts to help our foundation,” Sutton said. “I can’t say enough about how much their support means to us. For the girls to take time on a Saturday to be a part of this, it means a lot.”
While Manalapan scored its first victory of the season with a 6-2 victory over Jackson Liberty, the marquee matchup of the day-long event was the final contest of the day — a clash of titans between Toms River East and Robbinsville.
Up against highly regarded pitcher Lauren Fischer, the Raiders utilized the long ball to score most of their runs and ended up with a 5-2 victory. Meanwhile, East senior hurler Jordan Weed was excellent from the circle, allowing six hits while fanning 10 Ravens and walking just one.
“This was a very big and a good one for us to see how we measured up with one of the better teams in the state,” said Weed, whose teammates tallied eight hits and made just one error behind her. “We felt good on the ride up here, and we built off that positive energy. We wanted to prove something today.”
And right from the top of the first inning, the Raiders proved they were going to be difficult to beat after senior shortstop Sarah Bencivenga crushed a pitch to right-center field for a solo home run to give East a 1-0 lead.
After the Ravens made the most of three hits and a walk during the bottom of the fourth and scored twice to grab a 2-1 lead, the Raiders bounced right back in the top of the fifth, when Jodi Bruno reached on an infield hit, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sam Lanzano and scored on an error off a ball hit by Taylor Dziedzic.
With the game knotted at 2-2 heading into the sixth, the Raiders hit the Ravens with the final blow. Junior catcher Val Hirschfeld led off with a single, before Bruno worked out a walk with two outs. Lanzano, a freshman playing in her third varsity game, then drilled a pitch from Fischer over the fence in right center, giving East a three-run cushion.
“It felt good to hit that home run,” Lanzano said. “We just went out there today to take our hacks, get the ball in play and don’t be afraid.”
Robbinsville (3-1) put runners on first and second in the seventh, but Weed struck out the side for the victory.
“Right now, it’s about developing confidence,” Weed said. “And Lanzano stepped up in a big spot and came through for us.”
Other Klassic games:
HOWELL 11, MONSIGNOR DONOVAN 9: Marie Bartow went 3-for-5 and slugged a solo home run in the fifth inning, as Howell (2-2) went on to oust Monsignor Donovan. Paige Eckert also was 3-for-5, while Kelly Hardiman, Jacqui Coulahan and Julia Moscato each added two hits to a 16-hit onslaught. For Donovan, Samantha Broo went 3-for-5.
FREEHOLD TWP. 4, BARNEGAT 0: Jordyn White fired a no-hitter while Marissa Barnes went 3-for-3 and Sara Romanowski went 2-for-3, as the Patriots rebounded from a loss on Friday. Both Barnes and Romanowski hit a double and triple to pace Freehold Township (3-1).
RARITAN 9, MIDD. NORTH 2: Emily Schaffer whacked a two-run homer in the first inning to help give the Rockets a 4-0 lead, and they went on to add five more runs during the next two innings. Daniella Marino went 3-for-4, while Schaffer, Bethany Evans and Brianna Rinaldi each swatted two hits. Nikki Alfano paced the Lions with three hits, while teammates Audrie Thomas, Julie Gross and Kelly Rasmussen each had two hits.
TR SOUTH 2, PINELANDS 1: The Indians received a 16-strikeout, two-hit effort from senior pitcher Danielle Gabriel, as South scored its first win of the season while handing the Wildcats their first loss. With Kiaya Jacobs on first base in the sixth, Gabriel bashed a triple down the left-field line to score Jacobs with the game-winner.
MANALAPAN 6, JACKSON LIBERTY 2: Amy Hickman started the game with a solo homer, which helped put the Lions up 2-0, but the Braves bounced back with three runs in the bottom of the first and they ended up with their first win of the season. Amanda DiPietrantonio went 2-for-3 with two RBI to lead the offensive attack. Danielle Budden also went 2-for-3 for Jackson Liberty.