In the state tournament, one swing sometimes can make a difference.
One swing ended Pinelands’ season on Tuesday, as the Wildcats (23-7) traveled to Gloucester Tech for their NJSIAA South Group III semifinal and fell short, 2-0, after Michele Civile drilled a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“When we got to the field, the first thing we noticed was the short porch in right field,” said Pinelands head coach Keith Lowe, whose team shattered the program’s single-season record for wins. “In left and center, it was something like 215 feet. But in right, it may have been 190. It was tight out that way, and their kid hit a screwball over the fence out there. It was shocking.”
The Wildcats had an opportunity to seize control in the top of the first, when senior Breanna Wilson singled to lead off and ended up on third base after the center fielder misplayed the ball. Two batters later, Lowe called on Naomi Stas to drop a squeeze bunt, which she did. However, first baseman Taylor Thomas made a running scoop with her glove and flipped the ball to home plate and Wilson was tagged out.
From there, the only hits allowed by winning pitcher Erynn Sobieski were a single by Stephanie Healy in the third, another single by Wilson in the sixth and a single by Emma Neuweiler in the seventh. Neuweiler allowed the Cheetahs (19-5) six scattered hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.
“Emma pitched really well, and that home run was the only ball they hit hard,” Lowe said. “We played well and it would have been a nice opportunity to get to the final. This was a tough way to go out for these girls, especially the seniors.”