Wall advances to Group III title game

Wall advances to Group III title game

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Wall advances to Group III title game

By

MEDFORD

Wall senior shortstop Sydney Canessa doesn’t refer to her teammates merely as teammates. Instead, she views herself as one of the older sisters in a family.

And the family is headed to the NJSIAA Group III championship game.

“We don’t give up in a game and we don’t give up on each other, like a true family,” Canessa said after she scored one of two runs in the top of the ninth on Tuesday at Lenape High School, as the Crimson Knights got by Gloucester Tech, 5-3, in the group semifinals. “Getting to the state championship game just shows how much all that hard work we put in pays off. It takes a whole team, and everybody in our dugout got us to this point.”

But it wasn’t easy.

Wall (25-4) jumped out in front in the top of the third when freshman right fielder Emily Mowen slugged her first career home run — a blast to right-center field to lead off the at-bat — before junior catcher Dani Petrone and senior second baseman Katie Kilgallen each walked, advanced on a double steal, and Petrone crossed the plate when senior first baseman Chickie Clayton grounded out to second, making it 2-0.

The Cheetahs (20-6) bounced back with a run in the bottom of the third, as Cheyenne Revoir reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a triple to right-center off the bat of Jean Romer, trimming the deficit to a run.

The Crimson Knights added a run in the fifth when Petrone walked to lead off, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Clayton and scored on Katie Wingel’s bloop single to center, putting Wall back up by two, 3-1.

Wall maintained the two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, but Gloucster Tech struck again, this time on a two-run blast to right by Claire Lucas which sent the game into extra innings.

“You have to forget something like that,” said freshman pitcher Jackie Howarth (18-3), who despite a slight injury to her back went the distance, striking out five and walking two. “You just have to stay tough and get the next out. I was very confident in my teammates that we’d come back and win it.”

And in the top of the ninth, Mowen sparked the Crimson Knights again, drilling a one-out double to left that one-hopped the fence. Canessa, who in the pre-inning huddle outside the dugout challenged her team to finish off the Cheetahs, hit a grounder to short and hustled down the line as Mowen held at second. However, the throw deflected off the first baseman’s glove and into foul ground, allowing Mowen to score and Canessa to end up on second.

Petrone then hit a sharp grounder up the middle, prompting a dive from Gloucester Tech shortstop Taylor Favinger, who knocked the ball down behind second base. But with Petrone easily safe at first, Canessa didn’t hesitate as she streaked around third and headed home. The throw was well late as Canessa scored the fifth run.

With two out in the bottom of the ninth and a runner on first, Cheetahs first baeman Gabby Glocker smashed a one-hopper toward the third-base hole but freshman third baseman Casey DeSarno, who just a few weeks ago had her nose broken by a line drive, made a diving snatch, sprung to her feet and fired to Clayton at first for the final out.

“If you want your team to be a championship team, you have to take some chances,” said Wall head coach Tony Vodola, whose team last was in and won a state championship game in 2007. “And I’m really glad the girls believe in me and believe in themselves. It doesn’t get better than this.”

Defensively, Canessa was outstanding, finishing with four putouts and eight assists. She ended the first by scooping up a sharp ground ball toward the middle, stepping on second and firing to first for a double play. She provided the first two outs in the second by snatching a line drive headed for center and doubling off Lucas, who walked, at first.

In the bottom of the seventh with the game tied, she made a leaping grab of a line drive headed for left for the second out, before ending the inning by charging and snaring a chopper to the left of DeSarno and throwing to first while hopping over her third baseman, who dove for the ball and missed.

“I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team,” Canessa said. “My job is to keep everybody up and if that means doing it on the field as well as in the dugout, then that’s what I do. Defense wins championships, and I didn’t want this to be our last game.”

Wall 5, Gloucester Tech 3 (9 inn.)

Wall (25-4) 0 0 2 0 1 0 0-0-2 5 9 1
Gloucester Tech (20-6) 0 0 1 0 0 0 2-0-0 3 7 1

2B: (W) Mowen; 3B: (G) Romer; HR: (W) Mowen, (G) Lucas; WP: Howarth (18-3); LP: Sobieski (20-6).

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