Wall advances to CJ Group III final

Wall advances to CJ Group III final

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Wall advances to CJ Group III final

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WALL

It’s the little things that matter, especially in the state tournament.

And in the only at-bat that mattered on Wednesday, Wall did the little things that propelled it to a 1-0 victory over Allentown during the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals.

“You definitely have to take advantage of every little opportunity you get,” said Wall senior second baseman Katie Kilgallen, who scored the Crimson Knights’ only run in the fourth inning. “Today, we were here to play our hearts out on every ball in the field, run our butts off on every ball we hit and play together as a family.”

Scoreless through three innings, Kilgallen sparked the top-seeded Crimson Knights when she busted it down the line on a slow grounder to second base and beat the throw for an infield single. After going to second on a wild pitch, senior first baseman Chickie Clayton dropped a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line to move Kilgallen to third.

Kilgallen then scored when she made a perfect read on a slow grounder to shortstop off the bat of sophomore left fielder Katie Wingel, forcing Allentown shortstop Erica Nugent, who briefly glanced toward the plate once she scooped up the ball, to fire to first to get the second out.

Wall (23-4) had other opportunities to score — putting runners on second and third with one out in the second, and later putting runners on the corners with two outs — but didn’t get the extra run across.

Meanwhile, freshman pitcher Jackie Howarth had a battle going with the Redbirds (25-6), warding off threats with the help of her defense multiple times throughout the contest.

In the third, Allentown put a runner on second with one out before Howarth got Dominique Galipo to hit a comebacker, then getting leadoff batter Maddie Brunck to fly out to junior center fielder Amanda Pringle, who made a spectacular backhanded grab on the run as the ball was sailing away from her into the left-center gap.

In the fourth, the Redbirds had runners on second and third with two outs before Nugent hit a scorching line drive toward the hole at third, which was deflected down by junior third baseman Jen Guerriero and picked up by senior shortstop Sydney Canessa, who fired to first for the third out.

With two outs in the sixth, Allentown got back-to-back singles from Chelsea Turner and Erin Drennan, but Howarth got Bryana Smith to ground out to Canessa at short. And with two outs in the seventh and runners on first and second, Howarth faced the hard-hitting Brunck a fourth time and won the battle again, getting Brunck to chase a changeup and hit it weakly to Clayton at first for the final out.

Canessa ended up 2-for-3, while Howarth ended up with just one strikeout and no walks.

“I told the girls before the game that it was going to be a 1-0 game and the winning run probably was going to score on some ball in the infield,” said Wall head coach Tony Vodola, whose team will host seventh-seeded Nottingham in Friday’s sectional final. “I just knew it was going to be that kind of game, and when you have games like that you have to do the little things or your season’s over.”

Kilgallen said Monday’s 2-1 loss to Mater Dei in the Shore Conference Tournament was a catalyst for the Crimson Knights’ focus against Allentown, knowing the season could end at any moment.

“I think our quote for today was ‘It’s not the way a team loses, but how it comes back,’ and we came back today bitter about that loss the other day. We had a killer instinct,” she said. “I’m glad today wasn’t the last day to wear this uniform.”

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